The publication of a paleo baby cookbook, co-authored by celebrity chef Pete Evans, has been delayed, amid calls by leading health officials that its recipes could be potentially fatal to children.
Friday's release of Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way has been postponed by publishers Pan Macmillan after concerns about the book's "bone broth" baby formula were raised with the federal Department of Health, The Australian Women's Weekly reported online.
The recipe, called the "DIY baby milk formula", is a chicken liver based concoction containing no milk products, which the book claims "mimics the nutrient profile of breast milk". The recipe is marketed as a "wonderful alternative" to breast milk and the "next best thing" when breast milk is not an option.
The claim has been slammed as "false and misleading" by Julie Smith, a health and economics expert at the Australian National University.
"I think the ACCC should be looking very hard at this particular claim. The commercial publisher aims to make money out of this book and I suspect they would have to consider very carefully the investigation that would ensue if they published it."
Dr Smith said evidence backed by the World Health Organisation clearly showed that expressed breast milk was the "next best thing" for the baby when breast-feeding was not an option. Failing that, commercial baby formula should be used, she said.
The DIY formula recipe potentially exposed babies to dangerous levels of vitamin A and inadequate levels of other nutrients, The Australian Women's Weekly reported.
Michael Moore, chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, said his organisation was among a consortium of health groups that had approached the book's publishers with their concerns.
"We hope they will look at the evidence instead of putting babies at risk," he said.
Mr Moore echoed the concerns raised by the Public Health Association's president, Professor Heather Yeatman, who said in an interview with The Australian Women's Weekly "there's a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead".
"Especially if [the DIY formula] was the only food a parent was feeding their infant, it's a very real risk. And [I consider that] the baby's growth and development could be impaired."
Adherents of the paleo diet restrict their food intake to the types of unprocessed foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruit.
Milk products, along with all grains and pulses, are banned.
A spokeswoman for federal Health Minister Sussan Ley confirmed the department "has been closely scrutinising this diet and book".
"The department is concerned about the inadequate nutritional values of some of the foods, in particular for infants, and is investigating further," a spokeswoman said.
Co-authored by My Kitchen Rules judge and paleo advocate Evans, actress and baby food blogger Charlotte Carr and naturopath Helen Padarin, the book features a range of other recipes based on the paleo diet that health officials have deemed unsafe or inappropriate for children. Among them are recipes that include runny eggs and added salt, which health experts claim contravene national health guidelines for babies.
Professor Yeatman said children "may be seriously affected" as a result of parents limiting their diets to the ascribed paleo doctrine.
"That's the really troubling thing: the infant is totally at the whim of their parents when it comes to feeding."
The book includes a disclaimer that states: "Although we in good faith believe that the information provided will help you live a healthier life, relying on the information contained in this publication may not give you the results you desire or may cause negative health consequences."
When contacted by Fairfax Media, Pan Macmillian would not confirm whether a revised publication date had been set or whether bookstores offering pre-ordered copies of the book had been advised to cease doing so.
On Thursday, Evans' The Paleo Way official website had crashed or had been taken down.
Evans, who has acquired the moniker "Paleo Pete", has encountered numerous controversies in his religious promotion and defence of the diet.
Last year, he launched a broadside attack on his Facebook page against the Heart Foundation and the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) over the merits of the paleo diet and urged his half a million Facebook followers to sign a petition to "boycott" the Heart Foundation's tick.
In December, he was photographed wearing a "Fluoride Free" T-shirt, after reportedly attending a meeting with the controversial Perth-based anti-fluoride group.