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

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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

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/

Food quality

Basmati Rice - not the brand discussed.

I’m sat inside the house right now because it’s so hot outside (this is not a complaint). My feet are surrounded by a carpet of dandelion seeds which have blown in from outside as the all of the doors and windows are open. From time to time the seed-heads are like a fog – where do they all come from?  This weekend we’re having the sort of weather we often dream of and because of this we’re encouraged to eat outside. Barbecues are the order of the day.

But, to be honest – it seems a real hassle to take all the summer chairs and tables out of the hut they live in, just to get the gas barbecue out for just the two of us. We’re both going to Vienna later this week, so we can’t just leave them outside. I therefore thought we could have a tandoori chicken meal last night – which in the end, was a disaster!

I’d marinaded the chicken and decided to cook it on the pizza stone Gail bought us earlier in the year. She’d thought we were deprived because we didn’t have such a thing and to be fair, I now realise we were deprived, because we’ve since had some wonderfully crisp pizzas from it. However – take a tip from me, don’t try using it as a tandoor. Nuff said.

I’d decided we could have some of the basmati rice we’d bought on special offer at Tescos. I bought a huge bag when they had it on offer a few weeks ago but I should have known better – it was tasteless. I mean, basmati should be delicately flavoured and as such should be cooked carefully too. It’s not that I don’t know how to cook rice. It was just the very worst quality, packaged to look like the real thing. a  picture of the sun setting over Scapegoat Hill

I should know better because I decided a long time ago that there are no real bargains at Tesco, or to be fair, any of the large supermarkets. To be a bargain something should be of the same quality you would normally expect and either be cheaper or in larger volume. This was both of the latter but certainly not the former. We’ve been caught out a couple of times with wine too. For many years my favourite red wine was Rosemount Shiraz – usually about £8.99. I’ve been tempted by the special offers (@£5-6) a few times but it has never tasted as good. A wine friend of mine (inasmuch as he’s someone who has made his living selling the stuff) does keep telling me that supermarkets do not get the best wines to put on their shelves. I’ve certainly not bought any ‘bargains’ recently.

There’s hope too in the newly elected ConDem(ed?) government’s ‘Coalition Programme for Government‘ They say “We will introduce honesty in food labelling” (pg 13) – which is another thing I hate about food companies. Why try to hide what’s in the packet? See also: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/misleading-food-labels-again/ and my previous Posterous post

Weaver’s Shed

Starter menu

I first started visiting the Weaver’s Shed with my first wife Sue, probably back in 1978, when we moved to Golcar from Birkby. It was the ideal place to celebrate a birthday, wedding anniversary etc. and as my birthday and our anniversary both fell in December, avoiding Christmas meals was (still is) difficult. The Weaver’s Shed was an Oasis of calm, sophisticated relaxation with nary a turkey in sight. And just a short walk from home.

Risotto Fondue

It’s not the sort of place you can visit on a whim; you have to save up your pennies to go – we’ve lost several limbs between us, following our various visits. Yet for me, it’s better value overall, paying £50 per head here; than £4.95 at Burger King (Pizza Hut, McDonalds – anywhere etc.). The flavours, textures, colours, freshness’ etc. are to be savoured and are individually created for each customer.

And the meal is not hurried.

We’ve been known to stay overnight too. At £100 for bed and breakfast it’s a real treat. There are (were) very comfortable beds (we had a four poster last time), THE most luxurious towels, soaps, sheets, quilts, pillows etc. complementary sherry and bottles of red and white wine. It seems a bit strong staying overnight at a place just 10 minutes walk from our home but some couples would pay more than that to see a football match. Our money provided blissful away-from-home comfort for eighteen hours and a superb breakfast.

Main course menu

We got there for 7.00pm and had a drink while be read that day’s menu. They don’t do draft beers and only stock bottles from Skipton Brewery. I had a Black Gold and Sharon had a glass of house white while we decided what to eat. Sharon chose the Risotto (picture above/left, starter menu top) and I chose the Fish soup (picture at bottom of post). Both were delightful. Each of the Risotto’s ingredient flavours were evident and the  soup was splendidly light and tasty.We had both chosen to have a glass of Vouvrey with our meal –  I can’t remember the shipper’s name or vintage but as always, it was right tasty. We’d have had a bottle but I had to drive to Burnley the following day.

As you sit, and before the meal is served, you are always presented with an amuse bouche and this visit’s was an espresso cup of garlic and sweet potato soup. The bread offered is always home baked and one specialty of the house (I think it’s one of the longer serving waitresses’ recipes) is ‘treacle bread’ – luvverly. Then, in between main course and dessert you are given an alternative to sorbet which may or may not have a name (??). This is a sherry glass filled with a strawberry compote jelly and topped with yogurt. Actually that doesn’t sound too nice but trust me – it is nice and is refreshing in surprising ways (the jelly is filled with space poppers – that was a surprise, the first time we had it).

Halibut Sandefjord

Our main courses consisted of Venison (picture at bottom of post) for Sharon and Halibut for me. Sharon’s Venison was described as ‘Rossini’ with creamed potato and honey mustard roast roots. Obviously I didn’t eat this but was given plenty of tastes. Delightful. The flavours were all there; deep and pleasurable: Rossini garnish implies that a croute and pate are involved and if you look closely you’ll see that this dish had two thin triangles of toasted (may have been fried) bread with pate between the slices. Very neat. My Halibut was described as being with ‘potted shrimp mash, leeks, Sanderfjord butter and Keta caviar’. Now I’m not a great fan of over-flowery menu terminology but this described the dish exactly. Halibut is my favourite white fish, so steamed like this – full of flavour and served with perfectly cooked leeks, a rich butter and cream sauce and mash was like heaven. If I had a niggle (this seems so rude), it was that the mash wasn’t as hot as it could be and needed a tad more seasoning. This was the first time I’ve ever used a cruet at the Weaver’s Shed. Salt is such a subjective taste.We were then presented with the ‘refresher’ and offered dessert menu. In the end, we declined pudding because a: Sharon doesn’t like any of the choices and b: I like them all – and we knew that there would be petit fours to follow. The petit fours come an a weird wooden contraption I’ve never seen before. The nearest thing I could suggest would be a Spaetzle cutting board. See picture below. Petit Four consists of tiny ice cream cones (pineapple and coconut); rocky road and a cinnamon cream drink. I managed to fit a whisky (Edradour)in with this as well, before walking home.

So it’s farewell to an old friend. We’ve not been close (I could never afford to go too regularly) but it is already missed. I look forward to renewing my relationship with new owners – they get at least one chance.

Fish Soup - David's starter

Venison Rossini

Petit Four

Wetherby

It’s surprising what you learn when working with people from other countries; especially about your own country’s society and language.

Sharon and I have just finished two days work (for TLC) with people, mainly teachers, from four European countries. They are all (as usual) brilliant English speakers and (again as usual) inquisitive. The first night we ate at The Swan and Talbot in Wetherby and as a result several colleagues wanted to know what a Talbot was. It had never occurred to me that a talbot was anything other than someone’s name; despite spending many of my childhood holidays in Blackpool tramping around Talbot Square and Talbot Road. It turns out to be a type of dog. They also wanted to know what a ‘hard shoulder’ was. They’d guessed the answer but wondered why it was so called. The answers to that one are not easy to find and verify I’ll tell you!

Clip shows a communication exercise

Eating in Wetherby was a pleasure compared to eating in the hotel, which seems to be run by young inexperienced staff. I have no problem with young and no problem with inexperienced but both need someone to turn to for advice and guidance. There didn’t seem to be anyone who cared at our hotel. Lunchtime buffet fodder was gauche and unimaginative. I’ve no idea what they charge organisers for lunch, but they should charge 50p per head extra and add some thought and imagination to what they do. The evening prior to our event three of us went there to greet late arrivals from The Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and Austria. Edith, the German had arrived and eaten and those coming from Spain and Austria were delayed until after midnight but the Czechs got to the hotel in time to be told the restaurant had closed – 9.30pm. The hotel just didn’t care.

Anyway, we had a great two days with the group before moving on to Reeth for a couple of days R and R.

We both enjoy Reeth, which is in Swaledale North Yorkshire, because it gives us several things: peace and quiet, great walks, fabulous scenery, real pubs (with real beer, fair to middling food, no music and no frills) and No internet and NO phone or 3G reception. As I say – R and R. The cottage was tiny but we managed – just. The view from outside was stunning; we couldn’t quite see the river but had fabulous views over Harkerside Moor, which in the prevailing weather (beautiful) was delightful.

It wasn’t until we arrived home that we realised there had been a volcano eruption in Iceland. So all the time we were driving back through the northern Yorkshire Dales (via Tan Hill, Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale and Skipton) and soaking up the sun, our erstwhile European colleagues were still trying to get home. At the time of writing, I am aware that Edith set off yesterday for Dover to be picked up by Christophe who drove from Baveria to meet her and the Czechs had returned (were returning?) by bus. The Spanish and the Austrians were staying on at the hotel. No update today.

Eduardo

A Busy Birthday weekend

Well, it was my birthday on Monday. Celebrations started on Friday last when Sharon took me to Leeds for the night. We’d decided to go on Friday because many of the Last Minute hotels in Leeds were booked up on Saturday. Even our recently favourited Ibis.

We stayed at the Hilton which was surprisingly dour and second rate. Sharon worried constantly about the 1″ plus gap beneath the fire door but I had more positive views about the likelihood of fire anyway (Positive in the sense that there wouldn’t be one). We had no towels and two phone calls plus a face to face request at reception failed to make these appear. In the end I had to visit the housekeepers myself (as they ‘sorted’ a room down the corridor). Then having been out and bought a bottle of wine, we noticed that there were no glasses! Sharon sorted that one with the same housekeepers. And, to finish, the room was noisy – all night. Cheap but hardly cheerful.

We had no luck with our planned meal either, at Strada, Red Chilli or La Tasca as they all professed to have hour long waiting lists – but this turned out to be a good thing as we ended up at Anthony’s, one of the finest restaurants in the north of England. I suspect that this was down to timing: At 9.15pm they had probably ‘sat’ all their bookings and could see just enough room for two more. I believe that an hour earlier our cold call would have received a ‘no’. The food was delightful. Each morsel had flavour, taste and texture and the ‘service’ was unobtrusive – which is, in itself a delight and far from the normal “is everything ok?” you get as you sit there with a mouth full of food, listening to your co-diner tell you something really interesting. All restaurants should take a leaf out of Anthony’s book and teach their waiters to hover – wait – watch – be invited to talk.

On Saturday, we had a nice relaxed breakfast at Bagel Nash. Their coffee turned out to be the best I’ve tasted in England this year and coupled with an ‘everything’ bagel (with butter and jam) was a great surprise. We went to Gill and Tony’s on Saturday night, a last minute invitation which, once again, turned out to be gem. We’re always relaxed in their company and it was a nice addition to a stretching birthday weekend. Emma and Charlie brought the girls around on Saturday afternoon – which is always  nice. Ben and Shiv came around on Sunday. It’s so great to see my kids from time to time – but like the old song by Harry Chapin suggests http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH46SmVv8SU time is always tight.

Then I began one of the busiest weeks of recent months. On my actual birthday, Monday, I travelled to London to meet my colleagues and friends before our delivery of the Advanced e-Guide/PDA programme Day 2 on Tuesday. I went early so that  could attend the MoLeNET event being held at the Apple Store on Regent Street. I learned lots of things here – one of which I will pursue at some time in the future – the iPhone accessibility features. I think I need to reflect on the week a little more.

Anyway – many many thanks to everyone who sent me birthday greetings and best wishes. I like to think that my electronic replies of gratitude reached you – but as I can never be sure: Thanks you again. 🙂