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by Kate McMahon

For shame, Paula Deen.

No amount of syrupy Southern charm can sugar-coat the simple truth: The celeb chef’s cash-related revelation last week that she has Type 2 Diabetes left a decidedly bitter after-taste across the country.

That’s because she waited three years to go public, and her announcement was paired with a “multi-platform” drug endorsement deal that put Deen and her two sons on a Big Pharma publicity payroll.

While the silver-maned, butter-lovin’ Georgia gal still has her stalwart supporters, her news set off a firestorm of criticism across the internet.

Chef Anthony Bourdain, who once called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America” for her calorie-laden recipes – tweeted: "Thinking of getting into the leg breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."

This post, one of more than 1,000 responses to a New York Times article, summed up many: “Paula Deen is the Kim Kardashian of celebrity cooking: a shameless sham who continued to hide her diagnosis until she got a pharmaceutical sponsor yet continued to hawk her dangerous recipes with abandon all the time.”

There is a story in the New York Daily News this morning that has her former publicist saying she quit “because she couldn’t see the logic in Deen’s decision to get behind Victoza.” Says Nancy Assuncao, “I couldn’t understand why they thought this was really good for the brand.”

Deen, 64, a Food Network phenom whose TV/appearance/cookbook revenue topped $10 million in 2011, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago. She delayed announcing it until she “had something to bring to the table.”

That included a deal with the Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk, whose injectable non insulin diabetes drug Victoza she uses. (It also costs a steep $500 a month.) Deen refuses to disclose how much she and her sons are being paid to promote the company’s “Diabetes in a New Light” campaign, which advocates use of Victoza, healthier “diabetes-friendly” recipes and more exercise. (Son Bobby just launched a new TV show, “Not My Mama’s Meals).

Deen, a known cigarette smoker, concedes she is not making any major lifestyle changes, just practicing “moderation,” giving up her “beloved sweet tea” and taking more walks.

When pressed, Deen said she would donate some of her compensation (reportedly $6 million over two years) to the American Diabetes Association.

Well, I’m just saying, y’all, (to paraphrase Paula), it’s just not good enough.

I think she wasted a unique opportunity to make a difference in our nation’s fight against obesity and devastating diseases such as Diabetes 2, which affects 23 million Americans – or 8.3% of the population. Even closer to home, some 11.3% of her neighbors in Savannah, Georgia, suffer from Diabetes 2, which left unchecked can be fatal. Diet and exercise can help prevent the disease, and reverse some symptoms.

As one doctor posted online:

“Boy, does this sadden me that a person who is so well liked and respected by so many is missing the opportunity of a lifetime: to help people. As a physician, I see diabetics every day and try to educate my patients till I am blue in the face and behind by an hour and all I am trying to do is help one person at a time. She could help MILLIONS.”

I am not blaming Paula Deen for the nation’s obesity crisis, or her diagnosis (as many online critics did). Just because her Lady’s Brunch Burger recipe calls for a hamburger, fried egg and bacon sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts doesn’t mean you have to eat it. And I do believe that individuals are responsible for what they eat and their personal health.

Paula Deen is reportedly shocked by the public backlash and lack of support from her fellow chefs. Hmmm. If Deen had been forthcoming about her diagnosis, publicly committed to educating her fans about healthy cooking and signed on as an unpaid spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association, this story might have a different ending.

Just food for thought, y’all.
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