Category Archives: Food and Health

Findus – A passion for great quality (horse) food

Wow what a couple of weeks it has been for the ‘food’ industry. Processed food such as cheap beef burgers and beef lasagne ready meals being found to contain up to 100% horsemeat. I’ve listened to a lot of news reports and consumers views overthe same period and most of the talk has been “horsemeat – would you eat it” where consumers would either say “not bovvered” or “eeeeeewwwwwww that’s disgusting!”.

Little coverage has actually been given over to shining a great big intense light onto the murky world that is the ‘food’ industry. Owen Paterson has indicated that there may be widespread criminal corruption involving foreign gangs pressurising suppliers into signing off horsemeat as beef. Yes, up to now it has been easy to dismiss this scandal on foreigners, but now it transpires that a slaughterhouse and meat company in the UK have come under scrutiny for alleged horsemeat mislabelling.

It’s all very complex and confusing with supermarkets blaming suppliers who in turn point the finger at their own suppliers. For example, Tesco dropped their supplier Silvercrest Foods over the scandal. ABP who own Silvercrest blamed McAdam Foods who in turn blamed their Irish suppliers. WTF!!!

With all this complexity and throw into the mix the period of austerity we are experiencing it seems crystal clear that corners have been cut. And guess who is on the end of this – yes the good old consumer (again).

More worrying is an investigation by the Ulster Society for the Protection of Animals (USPCA)who believe the dangerous drug phenylbutazone or ‘bute’ has entered the human food chain. Bute is a painkiller given to horses but is reported to cause cancer in humans and is not permitted in any quantity whatsoever.

The USPCA report that around 70,000 (many in poor condition) horses were corralled in Northern Ireland,  shipped to England (under false passports and chips) for slaughter before sending on to Europe. Once in Europe the meat went predominantly to Belgium & France, but it has been suggested that the meat was processed into cheap ‘beef’ goods and shipped back to the UK! YUM!

Testing, as I write (14th Feb), has been carried out for bute in horses slaughtered in the UK. Nearly 4% had traces of the drug in them. Of course the amounts were small and not a cause for concern, ahem…

I guess the clue is in the two words ‘food industry’. Something as important to our health as the food we put into our mouths I think should not be an industrial process. We seem to have lost our connection with the food we eat and where it comes from and only interested in how much it costs, the cheaper the better. Well now the chickens (and horses) are coming home to roost!
To end on a positive note I like Toby Hemenway’s ideas on sourcing food where the last place you should be going for food is the supermarket!

1. your garden/growing your own

2. community gardens

3. farmers market

4. independent groceries

5. chain supermarkets

Bon apetit!

p.s. for a good overview to date of this scandal go to BBC Radio 4 Food programme


Exactly what we/the planet needs – a move away from nutrient-deficient annual crops to more sustainable, more nutritious perennial systems.


food tank logoConventional wisdom has it that the path to alleviating global hunger and poverty requires farming in the developing world to become more like agriculture in the U.S. But with American farmers now dealing with ever-more-frequent natural disasters and crippling drought, maybe it’s time they learned from their counterparts in the Global South, who have been facing similar ecological challenges for at least a decade now.

That’s what Danielle Nierenberg realized after spending three years traveling the developing world, meeting with farmers from Bolivia to Botswana to find out how they’re adapting to the changing climate’s effect on their livelihoods. Providing farmers around the world with a way to interact and share their ideas in a wiki-style format — an “innovation database,” Nierenberg calls it — will be a major component of Food Tank, the new food-focused think tank Nierenberg started with fellow activist Ellen Gustafson.

While Nierenberg has done…

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Labour MP opens debate on childhood obesity

Today Andy Burnham MP critisized levels of sugar in children’s cereals where some brands including favourites such as Kellogg’s Frosties, Sugar Puffs and Coco Pops have up to near 40% sugar content. I would like to say thank you to Mr Burnham MP for re-igniting this debate, however, I hope if he ever becomes Health Minister again I hope he sticks to his beliefs and not cave in under pressure from the food industry lobbyists.

Read Daily Telegraph article here.

A doctor who should know better…

A doctor who is also a Conservative MP (Phillip Lee) has been calling for obese people to contribute to their medical bills if they need treatment that is related to their condition, e.g. Type 2 Diabetes. Sounds good in theory because as we all know obese people are all just greedy gluttons who can’t help but stuff armfuls of food down their necks…Yes there are people who make the wrong food choices but Dr Lee has not looked under the surface for possible causes of this obesity epidemic.  There are reasons as to why a person is obese but I guess it is easier to blame them than look elsewhere – maybe the food industry that effectively lobbies government.   Perhaps Dr Lee you should be looking at what crap gets put in our food these days – I’m particularly talking about hidden sugars/fructose (those low fat options for example). There is good evidence that junk food is addictive in the same way as cigarettes and alcohol and the western diet makes you eat more. We are also now seeing obese 6 month old babies. It seems that there is something awry when a baby who isn’t even eating food yet is becoming obese…they can’t be blamed for their obesity can they! I guess Dr Lee would charge for treatment of these babies if they were obese! Ridiculous!

I know we should all be home cooking with fresh ingredients preferably with organic, free range foods, etc. But this option can be far more expensive (particularly if you live in the US) than buying ready made meals for example. Indeed in poor neighbourhoods it’s hard if not impossible to find fresh ingredients at all. This is made especially more difficult if people are trying to survive in this economic climate with pay freezes for those  lucky enough to be working and reductions/freezes on welfare payments…

So please please please stop the demonisation of obese people!

Fasting for a healthier life

Check out some of the latest research into using fasting to improve your health in terms of stabilising blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. It’s on BBC iplayer for the next month. After this there is a clip on You Tube:

Diabetes – it’s good for the economy

Well it’s good for Big Pharma and their shareholders anyway. Why do I say that? Well just look at the recent $5.3bn acquisition of Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca. Amylin produce diabetes drugs Byetta and Bydureon. It is estimated that they will need to make $2bn in peak sales to justify the transaction. Byetta made $518m in sales last year and Bydureon $7m in the first quarter of the year being only approved for sale in January. So looking at the figures they are going to have to do some hard selling to get their money back! Indeed Bristol executives said that while Amylin’s sales force had targeted endocrinologists, the combined sales forces of the three companies would be able to widen their presence to cover primary care physicians. 

One endocrinologist I’ve mentioned in previous posts is Dr Robert Lustig who has stated that the lack of fibre in our modern diet combined with too much sugar (and high-fructose corn syrup) is the cause of obesity and diabetes. He believes you can cure type 2 diabetes in a week with a high-fibre diet. But do you think Big Pharma actually cares about this endocrinologists opinion. Hell no. At the end of the day these companies are raking in the profits as more and more people become ill through their poor diet. It’s the same for the food industry. It’s been shown that their lobbying of governments and other agencies forces them to water-down or even shelve reports that would hurt their business. Have a look at these articles where the sugar industry threatened the WHO (World Health Organisation) over a report they drafted recommending reducing a persons sugar intake:

WHO attacks sugar lobby

Sugar industry threatens to scupper WHO

And guess what happened? Yup the WHO recommendations were dropped – check out the video 9 mins in:

Also check out YouTube for all the episodes of  The Men Who Made Us Fat – not on BBC iplayer anymore.

Obesity – where there’s fat, there’s brass

Just came across this obesity graphic on Reuters showing the most obese nations. Fine. Underneath this map however is a projection of obesity-related drug sales where the top three drugs Lorcaserin (Arena Phamaceuticals), Qnexa (Vivus Inc) & Contrave (Orexigen Therapeutics) will earn their respective drug companies $755m, $689m & $443m. These drugs, as these companies know full well, ain’t going to help these people, only going to boost their profits. The real solution as highlighted in tonights BBC programme – The Men Who Made Us Fat is the rise of high fructose corn syrup in most processed foods…

Unfortunately, as is well known the food industry has huge power here and in the US so governments are too scared to do anything about it…indeed in the programme it mentioned the industry warning the WHO not to publish a damming report on sugar consumption, which it apparently shelved after being ‘leant on’. Same old. Same old….

The Skinny on Obesity

Great playlist of videos featuring Prof. Robert Lustig about the real reasons we are where we are with obesity.

The Men Who Made Us Fat

I’ll be taking a look at this programme tonight (14th June) at 9pm on BBC2 – The Men Who Made Us Fat. If you can’t watch it tonight be sure to see it on iplayer. It looks like it is concentrating on the real reason we are becoming overweight and obese – the ubiquitous evil substance that is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The programme blurb mentions the endocrinologist Robert Lustig who was one of the first to notice the dangers of HFCS but was unsurprisingly ignored. If you cannot wait till for tonight’s programme or want to see Prof. Lustig in action telling you how it is (with humour) it’s a great watch especially like the Coca-Cola Conspiracy bit (about 11 mins in). Check it out below. Also it’s worth exploring the rest of UCTV for great lectures on a variety of subject areas.

Aspartame – good or bad guy?

The other day I came across a BBC article about Coca-Cola and Pepsi changing their recipe to reduce one of its ingredients as it is classed as a carcinogen (cancer causing) which sort of sounds good but it seems it’s just so it doesn’t have to list it as a carcinogen on the label…read about it here. It also reminded me about the contraversy regarding the use of artificial sweeteners in our drinks and foods, notably Aspartame. So I visited the Coca Cola website to se what they had to say about this. After a few minutes trying to get to the right area I came across a Q & A section on artificial sweeteners where the following is stated under the heading:

Misperception: Use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners increases the risk of negative health effects

“There is no scientific evidence that foods with low- and no-calorie sweeteners increase the risk of other diseases or health concerns. There is an exception for individuals born with a rare hereditary disease called phenylketonuria (PKU), which prevents them from breaking down one of the amino acids found in aspartame. Therefore, foods and drinks that are sweetened with aspartame must include a warning statement to keep individuals with this disease from unknowingly using this sweetener.”

Which all sounds hunkey dory. However, just searching on a health newsletter I subscribe to and wholly recommend – WDDTY (What Doctors Don’t Tell You) I found the following article which highly concerned me with regards to Aspartame. To read the full article you’ll need to register (it’s free and well worth it). In this article Dr Erik Millstone (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex) “…maintains that aspartame was accepted in the UK on the basis of animal tests which weren’t properly conducted. According to his evidence, the 15 pivotal studies leading to aspartame approval both in the US and the UK had serious flaws or demonstrated risk.” The article also highlights many studies into the safety (or lack of) of Aspartame. In another article Dr Millstone looks into the increase rates of brain cancers following the introduction of Aspartame to the market. Find the article here. In this article he also questions whether anyone apart from diabetics need artificial sweeteners as the increased use of sweeteners hasn’t seen the same decrease in sugar consumption. Furthermore, he believes that using such artificial sweeteners as a diet aid as they “…are at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive.”