How Pete Evans managed to persist for so long in the mainstream. Picture: Sunday Night.
How Pete Evans managed to persist for so long in the mainstream. Picture: Sunday Night.

Moment Pete Evans finally went too far

COMMENT

A few months ago Pete Evans was sitting in the make-up room at the Seven Network.

He was about to go on air to spruik My Kitchen Rules but like all guests, even ones with expertly nourished skin, he needed a bit of powder and a quick tidy of his hair.

As the make-up artist tended to his needs, she kindly asked after his teenage daughters. Having a couple of her own, she joked that girls that age could be challenging.

"Not if they have a good diet," he snapped. "My daughters eat well so we don't have those problems."

Righteous, arrogant and guilty of peddling all manner of ludicrous and spurious claims, the sometime cook and self-styled saviour of the nation's diet has exited our television screens, hopefully never to return.

 

Losing the MKR gig comes just weeks after Evans was fined $25,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for promoting a “light machine” he claimed could be used to treat COVID-19. Picture: Supplied/Channel 7.
Losing the MKR gig comes just weeks after Evans was fined $25,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for promoting a “light machine” he claimed could be used to treat COVID-19. Picture: Supplied/Channel 7.

Just hours after parting with Seven, Evans took to Instagram, positioning himself as the Messiah conscripted with getting his message out to the world. "What are you willing to carry and share?" he wrote, under a cartoon of a man shouldering an enormous rock titled "The Truth".

In the years since he lectured us about activating our almonds, the now deactivated Evans had scaled up his quackery to such dangerous levels that Seven clearly had no choice but to part ways with him.

Thank goodness. Because "Paleo Pete" is a crackpot who should never grace our screens again. Despite the bluer-than-blue eyes and prophet-style clasped hands, Evans wasn't just some harmless lentil-snacking health advocate. He was a crusader and charlatan who used his status to expand his alternative lifestyle empire and convince the vulnerable to buy his questionable products and advice.

Fortunately, he was sanctioned last month when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) fined him $25,200 for promoting a "healing lamp" he claimed could treat coronavirus.

For someone who followed a low-inflammatory diet, Evans, who was reportedly on an $800,000 contract at Seven, could appear narcissistic and temperamental.

His brother, Dave Evans, said in 2017 that his brother had been "brought down" by fame.

"I look at what happened to people like my brother, other people, they're set up to be brought down by fame," he said.

His former partner and mother of his two children, Astrid Edlinger, also commented on the change.

"He's got more famous and it inevitably changes anyone," she said after their split. Indeed, while Edlinger once commented that she did not agree with the Palaeolithic diet, describing it as "a little extreme", Evans enjoyed boasting pictures of what he fed his daughters.

A few years ago he shared an Instagram post of his daughter Indii's breakfast which included organic eggs, broccolini, bacon, lettuce, avocado, fish eggs, sauerkraut and chimichurri.

"This takes less that ten minutes from start to finish," he wrote, adding, "Indulgence doesn't always have to mean sweet."

While other high-profile global chefs such as Jamie Oliver have used their platforms to campaign, it was to help others. While Oliver set about changing school meals, helping youth employment and advocating for a sugar tax, Evans's increasingly bizarre theories and claims smacked of money-making via pseudoscience.

That, or he was seriously over-fermenting the kombucha.

 

The TGA fine was clearly the last straw for Seven.

Evans had claimed his $15,000 "BioCharger" device was "proven to restore strength, stamina, co-ordination and mental clarity" and could be used to treat "Wuhan coronavirus".

When sceptics, dubbing it a "glorified lava lamp", brought it to the attention of the TGA the regulator served him with infringement notices and the fine.

But more alarming than his departure from Seven after a decade on the once high-rating show, is how he was tolerated in the mainstream for so long.

Back in 2014 he claimed our diets were to blame for the rise in autism and that his Paleo method could prevent the condition. The following year his cookbook for children was pulled from the shelves because it included a recipe for bone broth that could be dangerous to children due to its large quantities of Vitamin A.

He went on to claim that vegan women should eat meat during pregnancy, sunscreen was filled with "poisonous chemicals", and that Wi-Fi was "dangerous".

He combated the latter with "earthing mats", telling one newspaper: "When you're sitting at your computer, you put your feet onto a little mat and it sort of, potentially, negates any of the Wi-Fi issues and reconnects you to the Earth. So that to me sounds like, wow, that's a positive thing."

Sort of? Potentially? Wow? How convincing.

Pete Evans has weighed in on a range of health debates (including the medical use of cannabis). Picture: Supplied
Pete Evans has weighed in on a range of health debates (including the medical use of cannabis). Picture: Supplied

His next serving of unqualified advice was directed at women with osteoporosis.

He told them to stop eating dairy saying "most doctors do not know this information". This was a direct contravention of medical advice stating that dairy helps protect against the condition which results in brittle bones due to vitamin and calcium deficiencies.

The following month he was touting camel milk as a replacement for breastfeeding while acknowledging that it was "expensive and a bit hard to come by". Not done with beverages, he then campaigned against the mass fluoridation of water, even though fluoride prevents teeth decay.

He's also an advocate of the sun as "medicine", claiming he loved a daily swim and gazing into the "radiant light of the early rising or late setting sun".

Exasperated, the Australian Medical Association tweeted: "We're getting a little tired of saying this but please don't follow advice from Pete Evans. Especially if he's suggesting you 'gaze' at the sun."

If Evans was an anonymous loon living in some hinterland idyll eating raw cauliflower steaks and soaking in the aura of his BioCharger, no one would care less.

That he built a profile on the back of a populist television show and used it to peddle his nonsense to the masses was a grave cause of concern.

With a genuine public health crisis on our hands, the last thing we need is a self-appointed health expert spouting - or sprouting - nuts.

Angela Mollard is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @angelamollard

Originally published as Moment Pete Evans finally went too far