Fake BBC

I felt that the programme I watched on T.V. last night – Fake Britain – was biased and unfair in the way it reported the sales of fake fish in Britain. I don’t normally have a problem with programmes that tell us of the myriad ways in which we are being ripped off, but last nights ‘fish’ report was downright misleading. 

First of all, I don’t doubt that tons and tons of fish is being sold in this country as ‘fish’ – unidentified by any other name. Well done BBC for pointing that  out – we really should care more about what we eat.

To prove their point, the BBC turned up a guy who had suffered anaphylactic shock from eating some kind of unidentified (until forensic laboratory examination had been performed on it by the BBC) Vietnamese fish IN A PUB RESTAURANT.  He’d assumed it would be cod because the pub served cod when he had worked there. Fair enough – the pub should tell the customer what kind of fish they are serving up, even if it has a weird name.

However, the programme then went on to investigate the misrepresentation of fish IN FISH AND CHIP SHOPS. As far as I remember, they visited seven shops in north Wales and found one to be serving haddock, when the investigator had asked for cod. So what! The poor shopkeeper agreed that she hadn’t told the investigator the fish would be haddock (she sold haddock because it is slightly cheaper than cod) and the programme highlighted this fault as if she (and by implication all of the fish and chip shops in north Wales) were child molesters. In reality, they didn’t find the problem of fake fish in any of the shops visited – but they implication was that they did. That was pure misinterpretation of the facts.

The report would have been fairer if it had followed up on the tons of far east Asian fish sold in pubs and pub restaurants – rather than fish and chip shops. I wonder if that was because the pubs are owned by massively influential pub-chains and the fish and chip shops (usually) owned by less influential individuals. 

Shame on you BBC. You used to provide balanced reports. This was rubbish.

Food labelling

I’m not sure how far I can trust “Food manufacturers, supermarkets and health experts” [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18034074] to come up with something better than we have now.

They don’t have a great track record.

See here and here.

The system where each food’s nutritional content is listed as a proportion of 100g is fine – it works for me, leave it alone!

European regulations insist on such a system ‘or’ one that provides details per portion. Proportions of 100g tell me the percentage (%) of each nutrient contained and that’s enough for me. 12g of fat per 100g is 12% fat content and I know whether to avoid that product or not. However, 12g of fat per portion tells me nothing!

Portion size is subjective and as far as manufacturers are concerned totally arbitrary. Please do not settle on portion size, pack size, proportion of contents or food shape because they simply do not work.

Let us please have more clarity, don’t allow manufacturers and supermarkets to cloud the issue.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18034074

New School Lunch Standards (USA)

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution. I published a similar post, regarding school food and child obesity, last September.

This time by Jacelyn Thomas [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as schools meals is such a big subject over here in the UK too.

New School Lunch Standards Aim to Reduce Child Obesity, But will it Really Help?

Obesity—it’s an ongoing epidemic that some medical experts argue should be treated as an addiction, just like alcohol and marijuana.  It’s a condition that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $92 billion over the years and has contributed to a plethora of health issues—especially for our younger generation. In fact, childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So who’s to blame for our youth’s rapid weight gain? School cafeteria lunch programs, many argue. It’s no surprise either. Children have access to an array of unhealthy food options for school lunch including greasy pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken tenders, French fries and the new favorite, Flaming Hot Cheetos.

In an effort to get to the root of the problem however, the United States Department of Agriculture finally launched a new initiative last week that will change the standard of school lunches, the first major school meal reform made in 15 years. The push was part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!  Campaign designed to get children to get healthier.

Under the new standard, public schools are now required to double the amount of fruits and vegetables offered daily as well as offer only whole-grain products and low-fat or fat-free milk. The sodium and trans fat levels will also be reduced. Caloric intake will also be strictly monitored: students in kindergarten through the fifth grade will be limited to an average of 550 to 650 calories for lunch, for example.

“We want the food [children] get in school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables,” Mrs. Obama said in a press release.While Mrs. Obama’s intentions are good, the question still remains: do parents actually feed their children nutritious foods at home? Many studies point to no: families rarely dine together anymore, the fast growing number of single-mothers who are pressed for time resort to take-out or fast food to get a meal on the table, and sometimes lower-socioeconomic families can’t afford healthier food options, so they’ll feed a $1 Hot N Spicy McChicken off the value menu to their child instead.

Not to mention, it’s not like this sort of health conscious movement hasn’t been attempted already—a Los Angeles school district changed its lunch options in late January, offering healthier alternative food choices like wheat pasta, Greek salads and turkey burgers just to name a few. While most faculty members and parents were gun-ho about the changes, according to news reports most of the students find the healthy food options “inedible” and even prompt some children to venture off to the local corner store to smuggle-in chips and other salty snacks. Those who are not as sleuth-ey sometimes just skip lunch all together. So will this mandatory nationwide school lunch reform actually solve anything?

In short, bad eating habits are a choice—those that want to eat poorly are going to find a way to do so. And unless good eating habits are introduced to someone as an infant, reforming school lunches won’t help much—but it is a start. That said, it’s really important parents take the initiative to make some major food changes at home, otherwise the food changes made at school will be ineffective.

Byline:

This is a guest post from Jacelyn Thomas. Jacelyn writes about identity theft for IdentityTheft.net. She can be reached at: jacelyn.thomas @ gmail.com.

Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/5790773819/ 
http://www.flickr.com/people/usdagov/
Thank you for using Creative Commons.

Catching up

I realise that I’ve been very quiet this last few weeks, only having made two personally penned posts since mid-September (there has also been one guest post). Sorry. 😦

There’s no excuse really, I suppose I could say that I’ve been busy (and I have been – thanks to the wonderful Lilian Soon and her contract with Leeds College of Music), but when I really look at what I’ve been doing I see that I’ve also been busy writing blog posts elsewhere.

In an effort to separate my ‘ideas’ and the themes that began to emerge I now regularly write two other blogs besides this (my main) one. As part of today’s audit I have to add two other, much less frequent themes, one on Blogger, where I write about books I’ve read and a seasonal ‘holiday blog’ (see below).

My two main alternatives to the EduVel blog are:

Saturday Walks http://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/

I started this blog last December to separate the more personal aspects of my life from other areas. It was something I’d planned to do for many years and began with the idea of continuing the events John and I have shared since 1999 (cycle ride).

However, over the twelve months it has widened its scope to include many other aspects of life: e.g. 

  • Snowmageddon, a snowy time in Wales,
  • IfL, some thoughts on the original increased fee structure,
  • Lest we forget, a commentary on the state of public services in 2011, and
  • John Grant, a musical interlude!

Nutritious, economical foodhttp://shoestringfoods.wordpress.com/

I started this in September following my increasing (renewed) interest in all things epicurean. It started as a blog to help folks become more confident in cooking cheap but nutritional food – instead of cheap, tasteless rubbish from supermarkets. It is beginning to evolve. Sadly, some food stuff are still to be found here in EduVel and in Saturday Walks … hey ho.

Examples:

  • Salt n Pepper here, I began to talk about the store cupboard necessities,
  • Vegan Challenge courtesy of Liz Wyman’s challenge to cook vegan food,
  • Regional Food – I continue the drift away from my original plan, but stay within the food theme.

So, please have a look at one of the above now and again – I hope you enjoy it.

School Cafeteria Lunch Programs in the United States

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time by Lauren Bailey [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as schools meals (and meals on wheels for the elderly) are such big subjects over here in the UK too.

School Cafeteria Lunch Programs in the United States

With childhood obesity and childhood type II diabetes steadily on the rise in U.S. in the past decade, there’s no denying that our society’s diet needs to be altered. In the past, the term “obesity” was only associated with adults because only adults could become clinically obese. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, however, childhood obesity affects nearly 25 million children today and is termed one of the most threatening epidemics in U.S. history. The truth is, in most cases, childhood obesity is the result of a flawed lifestyle. Genetics do come into play to some degree, but the only way a child can be clinically obese is if they ingest more calories than they expend. For many years now, the nutritional value of lunches in school cafeterias throughout the country has been under great debate.

School cafeterias have served greasy pizza slices, sugary soft drinks, fattening desserts, and tons of fried side dishes for years and years. In the past, schools’ cafeterias and vending machines were stocked with processed foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. With our kid’s health classes constantly preaching a healthy diet to help fuel their minds, it’s a strange contradiction to serve extraordinarily unhealthy food choices to our young learners. In many ways, kids were trapped into an unhealthy diet by the delicious, but dangerous food choices their educators and mentors provided them. With Michelle Obama and celebrity chefs speaking out about childhood obesity and diet, movement is afoot to bring change to school lunch programs across the country.


Michelle Obama has made it her mission as First Lady to improve the health of America’s youth. In 2010, she lobbied to Congress for the Child Nutrition Bill that expanded the school lunch program and set new standards to improve the quality of school meals. These government guidelines have helped schools prepare lunches that include fewer fried foods, smaller servings, and no cupcakes. These small steps in school districts across the country have helped make school lunches healthier and more suitable for our youth.


While these changes in school guidelines nationwide have been a drastic improvement, there are several obstacles still in place. One of the most struggling aspects of improving the diets of our children (and our nation as a whole) is money. For some reason, healthier food costs more. This is a huge concern for public schools trying to improve their school lunch menus. Schools receive $2.68 for each free meal that they serve through the National School Lunch Program. This small wage is used to purchase the food, pay the labor, and maintain the facility. Needless to say, $3 just isn’t enough to easily purchase non-processed organic food. Schools are being forced to raise their prices for their lunches, causing some students and their parents to really struggle.


This all just feels very backwards. Why would it cost more to provide our children with healthier meals? Why should schools and parents be burdened with high costs just to keep their students (our future leaders) well fed and ready to learn? Our own health and especially our youth’s health should be of top priority. While things are looking up for school lunches in the United States cafeteria rooms, there is still much to be addressed. But, with the growing awareness of the health risks a poor diet poses and the growing concern about the obesity epidemic among America’s youth, things can only improve.


By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com

Cooking Brussels Sprouts

My friend Jon Trinder has a Love/Hate Brussels Sprout map at http://www.ninelocks.com/sprout/, showing all of the responses to the ‘sprout war’ on Twitter [send Tweet to @jontrinder and include the hash tag #uksprouts, add the first half of your postcode and say whether you LOVE or HATE Brussels Sprouts]. Why not have a look and join in over this festive season?

I have provided John with a few simple recipes, which appear at random at the bottom of his sprout map page. Here they all are in one placeMerry Christmas.

Basic Sprout Preparation

Lightly wash the sprouts in cold water. Peel away any dirty or damaged leaves. Trim the stalk (which may only need a ‘shave’).

For most recipes, where the sprout is served whole, it is then advisable to cut into the stalk, to allow more even cooking. Catering students are taught to cut a shallow cross ‘X’ into the stalk, I have always found that a single, reasonably deep cut is enough.

Basic Sprout Cooking

To boil sprouts: You will need a bowl of iced water and a pan of boiling salted water (and your sprouts)

Take prepared sprouts and drop into boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. Drain the sprouts and place immediately into the iced water until cold. Drain again. This can be done at a quiet time in the day, to save time later. Set aside. When needed, drop the sprouts back into boiling water for up to one minute, drain well and serve (with a knob of butter!!).

Sprout Recipes

Shropshire Sprouts:

Clean and prepare the sprouts. Cut the sprouts into quarters (top to bottom) and cook (sauté) with some small cubes of smoked bacon in a little butter. This should take about five to ten minutes. Remove sprouts (keep warm). Turn up heat and brown the bacon. Drain off the fat, add bacon to sprouts, top with shaved Shropshire Blue cheese – serve.

Sprout Soup

Take half an onion, half a leek, a stick of celery and chop them up roughly. Cook slowly in 50g of margarine or butter (a bit grand!), about five minutes. Add 200g of chopped uncooked sprouts and cook for two more minutes. Add 50g flour and cook two more minutes, stirring all the time. Add 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock and bring to boil. Stir, stir, stir. Season and cook for about 30 more minutes. Now place the soup into a food processor, or use a hand blender (nuke/blitz/whizz). Now adjust the taste/flavour – all being well it will also take a little milk or (preferably) cream. Serve.

Sprout Tourangelle

Now, this is a tasty change. You will need to cook some basic recipe sprouts but first: Make a simple white sauce. Use whatever recipe you prefer, but I would use 50g margarine, 50g flour and 500ml milk to make a bechamel. When the sauce is ready add 2-3 cloves of peeled garlic and leave for 20-30 minutes to infuse. Keep the sauce (and garlic) warm by placing the sauce over (or in) a pan (bath) of lightly simmering water. When ready, remove the garlic cloves and add the sauce to the cooked, drained sprouts. Of course, if you were particularly fond of garlic, you could crush it and cook it in the margarine as the sauce is being prepared. This adds a strange texture to the sauce – but there you go – your choice.

Another way to make the sauce would be to take a quantity of double cream (as much as you need), add the garlic and boil/simmer for 5 – 10 minutes before you need it. This should thicken the sauce and infuse the flavour. Very rich though.


Other ideas:

Take your basic recipe (cooked) sprouts and toss them in some butter with some shelled walnuts. Just long enough to warm the walnuts.

– Add some diced, fried, crispy bacon to the above (or miss out the walnuts?)

– Slightly scary but – why not try puréed sprouts? All sorts of flavours could be added to the ‘mash’

– Sprout bubble and squeak?

Enjoy.

Misleading Food Labels (again 2)

How do they get away with it? Here is another example of a misleading food label, this time by Heinz (although bought in Tesco). Original Salad Cream

I like mayonnaise, but not the mass produced gloop we find in supermarkets and especially not the low-fat (or worse, super low fat ‘light’) versions to be seen on the shelves. However, like most of us I do have to be careful about the amount of fat I eat as it really isn’t good for my health. So, as I don’t dislike salad cream, I often choose to use my childhood favourite instead of Mayo. Some people get quite snobby about salad cream but I’m prepared to accept the ridicule. I prefer it to mass-produced Mayo!

Fat is an essential ingredient in our diet, but not one we can afford to overdo as Mayonnaise contains over 80% fat! If you think that the ingredients are mustard powder, salt and pepper, vinegar, egg yolks (fatty) and Oil – you can see how this comes about. I also worry about what else manufacturers put into products like this, especially those that can be made at home. How on earth do they make ‘low-fat’ Mayonnaise? surely that’s a contradiction in terms.

So before I continue my rant, let’s investigate the fat content of low fat (sic) Mayonnaises. All the products on this page range between 3.6g and 5.6g of fat per 15g portion. On the same page, we see one product that has 1g of fat per 15g portion. However this one does bear the following summary:

With it’s eerie, blancmange-like appearance and complete lack of flavour our panel were shocked to discover this had come from the big name player: Hellmann’s. Some were left wondering “What’s the point?”

So, proper mayonnaise contains over 80% fat and the pretend, chemically enhanced, (Low fatmayonnaise products contain starches, cellulose gel, or other ingredients to simulate the texture of real mayonnaise) stuff ranges between 25% and 30% – yet (here it comes) Heinz choose to advertise their product as 66% LESS FAT, which in fact turns out to be exactly the same fat content (see alongside) as low fat Mayonnaise.

Wouldn’t it be fairer and less misleading if they said ‘has the same fat content as low-fat Mayonnaise’ – or – ‘more flavour with no extra fat’ – or – anything that doesn’t require the punter to have a degree in Maths.

The site I’ve linked to above makes the same mistake (legally) of stating a portion size with resulting nutritional content, so to find out what the percentage is you have to do some working out.

I much prefer the ‘per 100g’ version of nutritional awareness (see alongside), because anything you then read is a percentage: e.g. 26% fat in Salad Cream and most low-fat Mayos. That way, I can make my own choice of portion size. The manufacturers’ portion size is always arbitrary. How many of us can recognise the size of a 15g portion? It’s actually about a Tablespoon full – but it that heaped? or level? How would you know?

See also:

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/misleading-food-labels-again/

http://dsugden.posterous.com/supermarkets-misrepresent-food

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/food-quality/