Apr 01

About Me and Food!

Seriously folks are we losing sight of what food is about?

Before I say any more, let me just get a few contextual details out there. I am in my fifties, a single mum with two grown up kids and a teenager. I have eaten more hot dinners than most people reading this blog and I LOVE food.

That said, I must admit to being a little bewildered about what constitutes good eating nowadays. When I was a teenager, fast food meant fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, yep I am THAT old.

Food changes over the decades

Burgers were something only Americans ate and chicken was always roasted, never fried. We did have a chip pan however, and yes, my mum set fire to it a few times. Making chips was always accompanied by a handy wet tea towel nearby, because our gas stove was pretty temperamental.

Over the decades my taste buds have been subject to a variety of foods, all of which I have sampled with gusto. Until my late twenties I was an engagingly curvy size 16 and despite attempts at dieting, I always failed miserably. it took working in retail, on my feet for hours and skipping meals for me to lose weight. Somewhere around then my metabolism seemed to change and instead of being curvy like my mother, I became string bean shaped like my father.

Now, I know I could probably do with actually adding some poundage to my skinny frame, but my body seems obstinately stuck on stick insect, so I just go ahead and eat what I like.

More recently however, I have become very bothered by what is actually in the food I am eating. Over the years, I have stressed over what I feed my kids and worried that they are getting a healthy diet. My eldest was exceedingly hyper as a toddler; give him some Smarties (candy coated chocolate beans like M and M’s) and you would have to peel him off the ceiling! I bought all the books on E additives and boy did shopping take ages as I carefully read all the ingredients. Nowadays, most of those hyper inducing e numbers have been removed from children’s confectionery.  This was mainly due to campaigning mothers and health professionals complaining to the manufacturers. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 25

Eat well live well

Are we eating well?

Most of us have guilty pleasures when it comes to what we eat. My weakness? Chocolate of course! However, generally we are aware that we should eat 5 a day of fruit and vegetables and minimise our saturated fat intake. We know that too much sugar and salt are bad for us and that certain additives cause hyperactivity in children.

What is less easy for us to understand is the complicated relationship between vitamins and minerals and what hidden ingredients there are in our foods. Most of us generally assume that the food industry is trying to feed us, not poison us! However, there is growing evidence that some foods are positively lethal and should be avoided at all costs.

My Nan used to say that you should do everything in moderation and that food should also be viewed this way. I tend to agree. I am not a fan of the food police that ban all delicious desserts because they have sugar and fat in them! I used to be an overweight teenager who saw all diets as a form of torture written by miserable people who did not want you to enjoy food. However, I do understand that there is an obesity epidemic sweeping the Western world and there are serious health risks associated with being obese.

My concern is not that we should all strive to look like stick insects or conform to a media driven notion of ideal beauty. I am far more worried that I do not truly know what is in my food and that the food industry does not much care whether their additives are compromising my health or not!

I am resolved to become more knowledgeable about good and bad foods and maximise mine and my family’s chances of living well by eating well.

An interesting article to start with is

14 Steps to Cut Out Processed FoodEat well, live well

Here you take on a weekly “mini-pledge” to improve your diet. So, the first weeks’ pledge was

Eat a minimum of two different fruits or vegetables (preferably organic) with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal.

Check out the other pledges here, I am going to have a go myself!

http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/steps-to-cut-processed-food.html

 

Ordering food to eat well and live well

If, like me you are seriously pushed for time, you could consider ordering your healthy food. One of my resolutions is to try to avoid the grab a bad snack habit that i have at work. I can either find myself not eating anything at all, very bad..or i grab a chocolate bar or biscuits to keep myself going, also very bad!

One solution to this is to have your lunch/snacks delivered! I am not talking about a sandwich delivery, in the UK we are not as well served in this area as they are in the USA. I am talking about snacks and food that gives you an energy boost and provides good nutrition.

There is a company called Graze that operates both in the USA and in the UK. If you sign up for their Graze boxes you get a box free, and they run promotions where subsequent boxes are half price or free, once you have had a certain number of boxes.

What i like about this company is your ability to rate the food delivered and try new foods too. This way, lunch is always a bit of a surprise but includes food you like!

Have a look at their website,eat well

www.graze.co.uk or www.graze.com

If you sign up through this link, http://www.graze.com/uk/p/3N5KVWVF you get a FREE box with your first order.

The box is recyclable and the notion is to supply you with healthy snacks in a convenient and easy way..no more missing lunch because you are too busy to go out and get it!  My first box arrives on Tuesday..

 

Organic food delivered

Another company I have used in the past delivers fresh organic vegetables to your door. The company is called Abel & Cole and their web address is, http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/

What makes this company different?

We work directly with the best farmers, butchers, bakers and carrotstick makers in the land. They’re the best in their field. We know exactly how your food is made, how it’s grown and what does, or more importantly doesn’t, go into it.

You know when you get your food from Abel & Cole that nothing dodgy has been added or used on the food!

Our food is grown and made to a very high standard, with the minimal amount of processing and packaging possible.

We do not use hydrogenated fats or controversial additives including aspartame, tartrazine and MSG.

What you may not realise is that organic fresh food can save you money! You are eating food that is in season and so are not paying for the costs associated with artificially making food grow when it does not usually grow!

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO!

 

Another cool little bonus with this company is the free recipes you get with your delivery. There are more on their website, and I have a great recipe book from them. It doesn’t have to be difficult to eat healthy food, and certainly having it delivered makes life a lot easier!

I am going to locate some more healthy eating companies and will post more information soon.

Apr 25

Horse Meat Scandal Updates

Finally – the government takes action on the Horse Meat Scandal!

Nobody could accuse the British government of hasty action! The sleeping giant that is the Food ministry is puffing its chest and announcing that consumers deserve not to be misled…excuse me while I laugh…and a full review of the situation is to take place. I await with bated breath any actual ACTION they may take.

 

Full details here

A “wide-ranging” strategic review of the horsemeat scandal is to be carried out, the government has announced.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22149690

Horse Meat Scandal – the latest news

Oh boy, this story just goes on and on! So, the latest revelation is that YES,  Horses treated with phenylbutazone,  the veterinary drug or “bute” as it is known, have become CORNED BEEF!! Guess what, Value Corned Beef at that. So once again, those at the lower end of the financial scale are being offered adulterated food.

See the full story here,

Veterinary drug bute found in Asda corned beef

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/09/veterinary-drug-bute-asda-corned-beef

The Food Standards Agency said the retailer had confirmed that the drug was detected in 340g tins of Asda Smart Price Corned Beef that had previously been found to contain traces of horsemeat.

 

The British consumer, however, seems to have regained some trust in its supermarkets, as the latest poll shows.

The proportion of people who say they will change their shopping habits – or claim they would buy more fresh meat, cut down on ready meals or avoid products from companies linked to the scare – has dropped from 52% at the height of the furore to 47%.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/09/horsemeat-scandal-consumer-fears-eased

However, lest the supermarkets get too complacent; the same poll shows that women are still more concerned than men, and let’s face it, women do the bulk of food shopping!

Certainly, Tesco have felt the impact of the food scandals.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/mar/26/tesco-market-share-horsemeat-revelations

Tesco market share sticks below 30% after horsemeat revelations

  falling market share

The April poll shows:

…the proportion saying they would buy locally sourced meat from retailers such as farm shops or local butchers rose from 13% to 16%

Change your source of fresh meat

If you feel that your local supermarket meat may not be all it seems, then check out my post on Inspiring Farmers and see the link to find Farmers Markets in your local area (towards the end of the post).

 

Watch out for Future updates on this scandal on this post. You could also check out my book

 No Horse Meat Please, We’re British! – Available on Amazon

Apr 09

5 Benefits of Genetically Engineered Food

5 Reasons we should continue developing genetically engineered foodstuffs

GM food

My arguments against GM food arose from my disgust at the endless food scandals that seem to rock our world. Most recently, in the UK, the Horse meat instead of Beef issue. This was clearly a fraud but it brought to light many other issues as far as what we consume and how much we know about our food.

In the UK there is a healthy mistrust of genetically modified foodstuffs and stricter regulations than in the USA. We often look to the US for guidance in these areas as the scientific breakthroughs in much of this came from the US. However, it seems that, although the manufacture of GM seeds and fruits and vegetables is in full flow in the USA, there is little evidence of any studies on long term safety.

There are , however, some startling advancements in genetically engineering food for global reasons. The well respected entrepreneur, Bill Gates is in favour of GM foods as a solution to world hunger.

 

Reason number 1 – Reduction in world poverty

World poverty

By Sbw01f (kaart armoedegrens [1]) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

According to Professor Jonathan Jones, senior scientist for The Sainsbury Laboratory, based at the John Innes Centre, a research centre in plant and microbial science. Professor Jones co-founded California company Mendel Biotechnology, which carries out contract research with Monsanto, Bayer and BP, and he is still a member of the Mendel science advisory board.

We are simply being fussy eaters about our dislike of GM foods

source:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8789279.stm

A billion humans do not have enough to eat.

Water resources are limited, energy costs are rising, the cultivatable land is already mostly cultivated, and climate change could hit productive areas hard. We need a sustainable intensification of agriculture to increase production by 50% by 2030 – but how?

He argues that GM is a part of an overall solution to poorer countries not being able to feed their people. GM crops he says result in

 increased yield, decreased agrochemical use and reduced environmental impact of agriculture.

He cites the growth of yield and the reduction of pesticide

Fourteen million farmers grow GM crops on 135 million hectares; these numbers increased by about 10% per year over the past decade, and this rate of growth continues.

More than 200,000 tonnes of insecticide have not been applied, thanks to built-in insect resistance in Bt crops; how could anyone think that’s a bad thing?

Professor Jones claims that many truly “green” proponents should see GM crops as beneficial to the land and he is dismissive of health scares as foolish, citing the USA as an example

Some fear GM food is bad for health. There are no data that support this view.

In the US, where many processed foods contain ingredients derived from GM maize or soy, in the most litigious society in history, nobody has sued for a GM health problem.

I am not certain that Professor Jones entirely makes his point, as he is using the argument that because so many GM foods now exist, they must be good? I am perhaps more convinced of the benefits of genetic engineering that targets a developing world issue of nutrition and preventable disease. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 09

5 reasons against GM food

Five Reasons against GM foodhow safe is GM food

1. How safe is Genetically Modified food?

GM food has been around for a very long time, much longer than the consumer realises. Scientists first discovered that DNA could be transferred from one organism to another as long ago as 1946.

How does Genetic modification work?

http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14717:new-paper-on-dsrna-risks-briefing-for-non-specialists

To date, most[1] genetically modified (GM) plants have been made by inserting a new piece of DNA into a plant so that the GM version makes a new protein. Most of these new proteins are designed to either kill insects that try to eat the plant or to make the plant resistant to a herbicide. The process works like this: the DNA is changed so that when a section of the DNA is read and copied, a new piece of messenger RNA (mRNA) is made. The mRNA then goes to another part of the cell and is read to make the new protein.

However, new advancements in GM foods show an alarming new direction being taken by scientists..and the potential dangers are being very much underplayed!

However, there is a new type of GM plant now being made. These are not designed to make a new protein, but to just make a new RNA molecule. However, the RNA molecule made is different to the single-stranded mRNA described earlier, because it is either double-stranded (dsRNA) or it is designed to find another single-stranded RNA molecule and bind to it to create a dsRNA molecule. These dsRNA molecules have important roles in cells. For example, they can silence or activate genes

Now, to a lay person such as myself, this sounds very high tech and incomprehensibly scientific, so I offer you my layman’s version of this;

Basically, this new type of modification actually causes part of a plants DNA to activate or deactivate, switching on or off. The implications of this are that some of these genes can survive cooking and eating. So, some insecticide sprays for example only work once the insect has actually eaten the plant; result it dies! Sorry, but that seems kinda dumb to me. I suppose it stops the insect from carrying on eating more of the plant, but what is the effect on humans?

Here is where the problem starts; Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 08

Inspiring farmers

British Farmers Fighting Back!

When I started my investigation into what we eat, i found some great comments from British farmers. I then tracked back these guys to their twitter feed and sites. What I read inspired me to think that maybe at least one part of the food industry is not trying to rip us off.

This blog post is my tribute to these hardworking folks who grow our food.

Gareth Barlow

At only 16 Gareth sold his Playstation in order to fund his first purchase of 6 Hebridean Sheep and a ram. This was his first step towards a farming career. He persuaded the Duchy of Cornwall (that is the Prince of Wales’ farm) to let him do work experience on their farm because they too had Hebridean sheep. He went to university but dropped out after a year because he wanted to pursue his farming business. This courage paid off, because now, at the tender age of 22 he is finally making his way supplying restaurants with lamb from rented fields and a larger flock of sheep.British farmer

Gareth’s struggle to establish himself as a farmer, with no family background in this industry was helped by media exposure. He appeared on the BBC’s “Countryfile” programme and spoke at the National Farmers Union tenant conference. Gareth, however, still faces barriers, notably the difficulty in buying a small farm to develop his flock. The fact that he is successful at all is down to the quality of his produce and his six and a half day working week; he has Saturday mornings off!

Finding finance is another barrier; young people with great ideas do not have a credit history so traditional sources of funds are difficult to come by. It seems a shame that someone with a quality proven product and such an amazing work ethic should not be supported by the financial institutions of this country.

Great Britain has a proud tradition of agriculture and with the current food scares it would seem prudent to support our farmers who are trying to produce quality products, whose origins are clearly British!

To find out more about Gareth Barlow, check his website, http://www.howardianhebrideans.co.uk/ or his blog, http://garethbarlow.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/outstanding-newcomer-2011-2012.html or connect with him on Twitter at, https://twitter.com/GarethBarlow

 

I read a really good article that highlights the difficulties facing farming in Britain because of the food scares, notably BSE for Britain. Extracts are below:

The fresh face of farming

A new breed of young farmers is creatively seizing an opportunity and supplying premium produce to specialist markets

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/farming/8929132/The-fresh-face-of-farming.html

For most British farming families, the dark decade between the BSE crisis of 1996 and the world food shortages in 2007 was the most traumatic period since the Second World War. With natural heirs leaving, and new entrants put off by low incomes and a public image as poisonous as paraquat, about 20 per cent of British farms were sold off or absorbed into larger ones, and it was the young who lost out.

The article talks about new young farmers who are starting out and focusing on specialist produce; using Twitter as a medium to market their ideas and helping to change the public’s perception of farming. Certainly, our love of food programmes has helped. We like our celebrity chefs, and they do their bit to encourage us to buy fresh, British produce.

However, more needs to be done as we still import over a third of our food and the recent horse meat scare should surely alert us to this being a problem! If ready-made lasagne were made with British beef, the manufacturer could trace its origins. Come to that, if we only bought food manufactured in Britain, using British produce it would be a lot easier to monitor!

This may sound a bit nationalistic, and believe me I am not against importing produce from abroad. I love the variety of food now available in the 21st century and I am not advocating a return to medieval times. It simply makes sense to me that our food takes as direct a passage as possible from source to finished product.

This notion is clearly supported by many consumers, as the growth of farmers markets in the UK shows. This is not a new phenomena; farmers markets are very popular in the USA, but came late to the UK, with the first being opened in 1997 in Bath. Read the rest of this entry »

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