Parents who want their children to eat healthily should focus more on serving them extra fruit and vegetables and less on giving them expensive organic produce, according to one of the country\’s leading nutrition experts.

Organic food for reasons of taste, for moral reasons perhaps, but not because it\’s doing you good. For the extra expense means eating less of thoise fruits and veggies…

Empty Calories

"They get fully hooked, it is an extremely noxious thing. It is more common with bulimia than anorexia but you get the combination of empty calories with no nutritional value and the risky behaviour that goes with being drunk."

This is something that rather annoys me, this mantra of "empty calories".

Yes, I know what is meant, there\’s no vitamins there, nothing beyond simply the calories themselves.

But going from there to "no nutritional value" is near insane. Of course they have nutritional value: they\’re calories!

Scum, Scum, Scum

How glorious, our Brussels Lords and Masters sacrifice a charity upon the altar of the Great Game:

No charity would be better placed to save lives in Chingai than ApTibet, of which the Dalai Lama is the patron. It has carried out more than 150 aid projects in India and Tibet, funded by many well-known trusts and individual donors, more than 50 of them co-financed by the European Commission (EC).

But this is no longer possible. Two years ago, after China and Europe became "strategic partners" under an agreement signed by Tony Blair, the EU\’s acting president, in December 2005, the Commission suspended ApTibet\’s operations because of its link to the Dalai Lama. Since then, it has done all it can to close the charity down, such as demanding repayment of €451,000 (£340,000) it had given ApTibet for a project in Chingai which it had approved, inspected and signed off as satisfactory.

The EC has become so ruthless in its desire to appease its "strategic partner" that it is now threatening to recoup a further £1.5 million from the charity it has already bankrupted, for other completed aid projects with which it had previously expressed satisfaction. It is also demanding legal costs of £75,000 for a court case brought by ApTibet\’s trustees in fighting for the charity\’s survival.

This is what soft power and aspirations to influence upon the world stage mean.

Scum they are.

Female Logic

I hate to blithely dismiss a whole swathe of scientific findings but I don’t believe a word of this. Fat gene, my foot

Gosh, what is it, what stunning secret knowledge makes India Knight capable of simply dismissing peer reviewed science?

Having written a diet book explaining how I lost my five stone, I also have a diet website that acts as a support tool.

Ah, she\’s written a diet book. Can\’t have science harming the royalty stream now, can we?



There\’s an Explanation for This

It is possible, I suppose, that even now I could outgrow these prejudices. In my early twenties for example, I finally discovered a love for salted anchovies. Until that point I had hated them. Now if I see the word anchovy on a menu I\’m likely to order the dish. I was actually in my early thirties when I finally discovered a taste for goat\’s cheese. Previously it had tasted too much for me of what the animal smells like. I think I just became a little earthier and decided I liked that smell.

It\’s because both your sense of taste and sense of smell decline as you age. Thus you do reach a point where what were previously extravagantly strong flavours become palatable. Nothing to do with becoming earthier, it\’s because you yourself are crumbling into the grave.

E Numbers Hysteria

You really do have to hand it to our MPs and Lords: knowing arses from elbows is clearly an advanced manouvre for them.

All artificial colourings in food and soft drinks should be banned, a parliamentary committee urged yesterday in a report on the effect of diet on the brain.

The associate parliamentary food and health forum – a grouping of parliamentarians and outside experts such as nutritionists, doctors and the food industry – says at the end of a year-long inquiry that the Food Standards Agency should be taking a tougher line on E-numbers and additives, which some studies suggest may over-stimulate children\’s brains and make them hyperactive.

Now, it might be true that some of these chemicals are not quite what we want to feed into a growing brain. I would put the onus on parents to make this decision, but I\’m aware that there are those who might disagree. But that isn\’t my point here, rather, it\’s the insanity of their actual proposal.

For E numbers are not in fact some creation of the devil\’s spawn. It\’s simply a labelling system. There are certain things which are put into food and so that everyone knows what they can and cannot use when and where a single labelling system was drawn up for all in the EU. Not even I am against clarity through such cooperation (I might whine about the use of criminal law etc, but having information presented clearly is just fine by me).

Some E numbers do describe things made in the lab: others do not.

E140 Chlorophylls, Chlorophyllins:

Green colour occurs naturally in the cells of all plants and responsible for photosynthesis. A fairly unstable dye, which tends to fade easily (see E141). Not easy to obtain in a pure form and commercially available chloroyphyll usually contains other plant material impurities. The usual sources are nettles, spinach and grass with the chloroyphyll being extracted using acetone, ethanol, light petroleum, methylethylketone and diachloromethane. Lutein, E161b, may be extracted at the same time. Can be used for dyeing waxes and oils, used in medicines and cosmetics eg in chewing gum, fats and oils, ice cream, soaps, soups, sweets and, obviously, green vegetables. Has no maximum recommended daily intake and is not subject to any prohibitions.

We\’re going to ban the use of chlorophyll in food now, are we? Bye bye to all green vegetables then.

E160a Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene, Gamma-carotene

Orange or yellow plant pigments, found mainly in carrots, green leafed vegetables and tomatoes, which the human body converts into \’Vitamin A\’ in the liver. Fades on exposure to light. Can be commercially manufactured in the laboratory but beta-carotene, with some alpha-carotene and gamma-carotene present, is normally extracted from carrots and other yellow or orange fruits and vegetables with hexane. Used in butter and soft margarines, coffee sponge cakes, milk products and soft drinks.

This is to go too? This is what is the stupidity: they\’ve confused the labelling system, the E numbers, with things that might do harm. But E numbers are simply a labelling scheme, nothing else. A blanket ban on the use of things with E numbers is insane.

E101 & E101a Riboflavin

Riboflavin is yellow or orange-yellow in colour and in addition to being used as a food colouring it is also used to fortify some foods. It can be found in such foods as baby foods, breakfast cereals, sauces, processed cheese, fruit drinks and vitamin-enriched milk products as well as being widely used in vitamin supplements. Also known as vitamin B2 occurs naturally in milk, cheese, leafy green vegetables, liver and yeast but exposure to light will destroy the Riboflavin in these natural sources. In processed foods it is very likely to be Genetically Modified as it can be produced synthetically using genetically modified Bacillus subtilis, altered to both increase the bacteria production of riboflavin and to introduce an antibiotic (ampicillin) resistance marker. It is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. Like the other B vitamins, it supports energy production by aiding in the metabolising of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B2 is also required for red blood cell formation and respiration, antibody production, and for regulating human growth and reproduction. It is essential for healthy skin, nails, hair growth and general good health, including regulating thyroid activity. Any excess is excreted in the urine but as the human body does not store Riboflavin it is thought deficiency is common. Riboflavin also helps in the prevention or treatment of many types of eye disorders, including some cases of cataracts. It may assist bloodshot, itching or burning eyes and abnormal sensitivity to light.

Cretins, simply cretins.

E150 Caramel


Can we hang them all?

(Looking at the actual report, they took evidence on tartrazine alone and then decided that all artificial colourings should be banned. Swing bastards, swing.)

Health Food Kills!

Right, mark this down with lettuce and all the other rabbit food as somthing to be avoided:

Yoghurt health drinks are at the centre of safety fears after 24 patients died during clinical trials of probiotics, the dietary supplements containing potentially beneficial bacteria.

Beef, potatoes and onions seem the only safe things left. Plus bacon, of course.

This Does Not Compute

OK, we know that male dairy calve are worth nothing and are therefore shot at birth. We know that at least part of this is because we Brits don\’t eat veal.

But in their bid to turn out ever-greater quantities of milk at ever-lower cost, dairy farmers have come to rely on what US nutritionist Sally Fallon calls "freak" cows – animals with abnormally active pituitary glands. Hard-wired to produce copious amounts of milk, they have to be fed – not on fresh pasture, the natural food of ruminants – but on high-energy feeds such as maize and cereal grains, and high-protein foods such as soya.

These walking milk factories are so gaunt and bony in frame that their calves are impossible to fatten economically. That\’s why beef farmers who once turned dairy animals into good quality meat are no longer interested. And it\’s why thousands of calves have to be exported to the continent – where the veal industry thrives – to find a market.

Erm, but what is this magic that makes it economic for a Frog to fatten up the calf, but not the Brit?

School Cookery Lessons

A list of those things that schoolchildren should be able to cook:

Carrot dippers and cheese and chive dip.

Potato and cauliflower cakes.

Vegetable soup with swede or turnip.

Cottage pie with parsnip topping.

Cucumber raita.

Spring greens stir fry.

Purple sprouting broccoli and fish parcels.

Spinach mushroom and onion lasagne.

Spring onion, smoked fish and new potato salad.

Veggie kebabs.

Peas and beans in tomato sauce.

Summer berry fruit salad

Sweetcorn on the cob.

Curried squash.

Chicken, leek and mushroom bake.

Poached pears.

Looks like a fairly political little list don\’t you think? No pork (and if you\’re learning to cook, pork is one of those meats that you do need to learn to cook properly), one beef dish (although not very much. 1lb of beef for 4-6 people is hardly lavishing it on people). Mucho mucho veggie stuff.


Eight Different Healthy Meals


Teenagers will be given compulsory cooking lessons at school for the first time, under government plans to ensure that all pupils know how to make eight different healthy meals.

And they\’re asking us, yes, us plebs, to provide the list of dishes that they should know how to cook.

So, no pork, for that will offend Muslims (well, the professional race mob at least), no beef (Hindus), no nuts because of allergies, no butter, sugar, salt (obesity), no trans-fats (because the previous advice about butter turned out to be wrong). Gonna be interesting, eh?

So, leaving aside those problems, what should the ankle biters be taught to cook?

Roast beef and the trimmings? Chicken Massala? Toad in the Hole? Deep fried Pizza?

Alex Renton: Idiot

In a piece on rising food prices Alex Renton says this:

But the factors behind the price rises in Leith are exactly the same as those in Mexico, or in China – where, last Wednesday, the government introduced price controls on dairy products, meat, vegetables and cereals. And while food price inflation hit 18 per cent last year in China, there\’s no good reason why they should not do that here. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why they should.

So there are no reasons why there should not be price controls on food and reasons why there should. A few paragraphs up he says:

Habits will change, although it\’s unlikely we\’re going to see Soviet-style queues at empty shelves.

A complete idiot, obviously. The fixing of prices below the cost of production means that no one will produce and thus we will get Soviet-style queues at empty shelves.

Why is it that journalists are ignorant of the most basic concepts of economics?

Erm, Zoe?

This bit is really quite good:

Immediately, this riles. Yes, we all have to take responsibility for our consumer choices. But those choices are a lot more meaningful for some than for others. The difference between a three quid broiler and a £10 organic bird to someone with dependants, living on – let\’s not even be melodramatic and say benefits, let\’s say the median national income of £24k – is very great.

To Jamie Oliver, it is no difference at all, on account of how he is loaded. And why is he loaded? Because a) he makes quite a lot of money entertaining us by gassing boy chicks, and b) he hoovers up that much and more again by advertising for Sainsbury\’s, which has been one of the driving forces behind this cheap food since mass production began.

Or, at least, this is the kind of petty-minded line of argument a person might be driven to, standing accused of cruel consumer choices. It is, frankly, obnoxious to see a rich person demanding impoverishing consumer choices from a poorer person. These chef-polemicists consider themselves outside politics, because they\’re being straightforward – let\’s eat what came out of the ground naturally, what was raised in a happy way. Let\’s just do as nature intended, and by gum it will be tasty, and what could possibly be political about that?

They\’re right, it isn\’t political, in that it has no consistency of ideas, indeed, doesn\’t even comprehend its own implications, but it encapsulates rather well what happens when rhetoric becomes unmoored from structured ideology: you get all the worst bits of the left – the proselytising, the sanctimony – and all the worst bits of the right – the I\’m-all-right-Jack, the "if you worked a bit harder, you too could afford to be me".

Well, quite. Insisting that those poorer than yourself follow your expensive moral choices really is rather galling.

But then this is howlingly bad:

The fact is, ethics that come out of your wallet are not ethics. All these catchwords that supposedly convey sensitivity to the environment, to animals, to the developing world – fair trade, organic, free range, food miles etc – are just new ways to buy your way into heaven, the modern equivalent of the medieval pardon. Anyone with a serious interest in this would be lobbying the legislature; arguing to tighten laws on animal cruelty.

Instead of persuading people to our moral view, we should pass a law making it illegal for people to differ from our moral view! Result!



Cloned Animals and Food

An interesting little example of the stupidity of the food testing system in the European Union. First, the Americans have considered this matter:

US farmers have been given the green light to produce cloned meat for the human food chain. In a 968-page report billed as a "final risk assessment" of the technology, the US Food and Drug Administration has concluded that healthy cloned animals and products from them such as milk are safe for consumers.

An entirely logical stance. There\’s nothing different about meat or milk from cloned animals. Indeed, that\’s rather the point, that there isn\’t anything different about them. So while one can argue on moral grounds (not sure what ones, but I\’m sure it\’s possible) or animal welfare ones, as is done here:

"It\’s a technology that has arisen out of a huge burden of animal suffering and that is still going on," said Joyce D\’Silva, of Compassion in World Farming. But she said even if the embryo loss rates were brought down to acceptable levels, the technology would be detrimental to animal welfare. "It looks like it is going to be used to produce the most highly productive animals – the cows that produce the most milk, the pigs with the meatiest bodies. These are the high-producing animals that have the most endemic welfare problems anyway."

Well, yes, that\’s the point of all animal breeding programs. All this one does is allow us to do it better.

But arguing about the food itself as being safe or unsafe is nuts: thus the American decision. But what has to happen here?

Even if cloned meat were given approval by the European agency it would have to undergo rigorous testing. "Under the novel foods regulation, the applicant has to provide evidence of safety – this could be in the form of a detailed comparison with the existing product, or it could be the results of tests in animals," said a spokesperson for the UK\’s Food Standards Agency. It would also be subject to approval by the European commission, which would require a majority vote of EU member states. Approval in the EU is likely to be years away, if at all.

That\’s the way to spark innovation, isn\’t it? To make Europe the most knowledge based, forward looking (or whatever the gibberish offered by the Lisbon Declaration is) economy in the world? When you offer something which isn\’t in fact a new product at all, it\’s a direct replication of an existing one (again, which is, after all, the point of cloning) you have to go through a testing process lasting some years, one which also requires the assent of the assembled continent\’s politicians, before you can sell it?

That\’s really going to get the boffins excited about inventing new things, isn\’t it?

The Marmalade Scandal!

There\’s more to this than meets the eye, you know?

As many of you will have been painfully aware, in Britain, sales of marmalade are in decline. While the attention of the nation has been focused on such diversionary chimeras as Iraq, the Iowa caucus and Britney Spears’s mentalness, marmalade has been going the way of the pikelet, piccalilli and Gentleman’s Relish. It is becoming an anachronism in the brash new world of the energy drink, the breakfast bar and Coca-Cola with vitamins in. It is facing gradual extinction.

Galvanised by this slow-moving preserve tragedy, David Atkinson, of Premier Foods – the manufacturer of Frank Cooper’s, Rose’s and Golden Shred – has announced an important change: marmalade is to be renamed “orange jam”.

“We’re looking at ways of making marmalade more accessible,” Atkinson said. “The challenge is to entice a new generation.”

The thing is though, you\’re not allowed to simply change the name like that. Ooooooh, no, there are laws about what is marmalade and what is jam. Very important ones too: it\’s a criminal offence (not a civil one) to breach them, with up to 6 months in jail and or a £5,000 fine to breach them.

Yes, it\’s our old friend, the jams, jellies, marmalades and sweet chestnut purees (including extra jams and extra jellies) where these are for human consumption but not in the preparation of fine bakery wares, pastries or biscuits. Here\’s the Welsh version. Yes, of course, it all comes from the European Union.

Our marmalade description:

A mixture, brought to a suitable gelled consistency, of water, sugars and fruit pulp, fruit purée, fruit juice, fruit peel or aqueous extract of fruit or any combination thereof, in every case obtained from citrus fruit, such that the quantity of citrus fruit used for every 1000 grams of the finished product is not less than 200 grams, of which not less than 75 grams is obtained from the endocarp.

Doesn\’t that make you feel better? That the governing body for 450 million people went to such lengths to protect you from marmalade which only uses 70 grams of citrus fruit endocarp? Further:

The following additional ingredients may be used, to the extent stated below:

essential oils of citrus fruits: only in marmalade and jelly marmalade;

So, orange jam may not contain essential oils of citrus. No, really, it is very important indeed. So much so that 27 national legislatures, any number of devolved ones and at least ten thousand politicians, with their assorted hangers on, secretaries, mistresses and toadies, should pass such a law. For what perils would accost us all if you were to spend £3 on a jar of orange jam which contained essential oils of citrus? As opposed to £3 on a jar of marmalade which did not?

Well, quite. People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough politicians stand ready to violence to the law on their behalf.


Whole Earth released the findings of a poll which found that two-thirds of respondents were baffled by the terms \’sustainable\’ and \’genetically modified\’ and almost half thought that \’macrobiotic\’ meant a type of bacteria – I won\’t sneer because I had to look it up too.

Hmm, I just vaguley assumed that it was some hippy dippy nonsense and that I didn\’t need to know any more than that.

Followers of the macrobiotic approach believe that food and food quality powerfully affect health, wellbeing, and happiness. The macrobiotic approach suggests choosing food that is less processed and more natural, and employing more traditional methods of cooking for family, friends, and oneself. One goal of the macrobiotic philosophy and practice is to become sensitive to the true effects of foods on health and wellbeing. In this way, one goes beyond rules and regulations concerning diet to choosing foods that sustains one\’s health. Dietary guidelines help one to develop sensitivity and an intuitive sense for what sustains one\’s health and wellbeing in diet as well as in relationships and activities. Macrobiotics emphasizes locally grown whole grain cereals, pulses (legumes), vegetables, seaweed, fermented soy products and fruit, combined into meals according to the principle of balance (known as yin and yang). Dietary recommendations include whole grains, such as brown rice, and other whole grain products, such as buckwheat pasta (soba); a variety of cooked and raw vegetables; beans and bean products, such as tofu, tempeh and miso;; mild natural seasonings; fish; nuts and seeds; mild (non-stimulating) beverages, such as bancha twig tea; and fruit. Nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant; also spinach, beets and avocados are forbidden (or used sparingly) in macrobiotic cooking, as they are considered extremely yin[3]. Some macrobiotic practitioners also discourage the use of nightshades due to the alkaloid solanine, thought to affect calcium balance.

Having looked it up it is indeed hippy dippy nonsense. So much for first impressions then.

This is the Point!

The campaigns against factory-reared chickens by celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver are helping to put poultry producers out of business, farmers’ leaders claimed yesterday.

Whether you agree with the campaign or not is one thing. But the point of the campaign is to put such poultry farms out of business. So the complaint is that the campaign is actually being successful, no?

Trenchermen Unite!

Erm, excuse me, but what\’s new about this?

For those who can\’t stand the washing up, help is at hand with one of the strangest culinary inventions in years – the bread bowl.

A Birmingham food firm has started making bowls and plates out of dough. The idea is that diners enjoy a soup, chilli or curry, then eat the bowl too.

We have a word in English, "trencherman", meaning someone with a healthy appetite (OK, more than healthy). The origin is supposed to be from the word "trencher", which in medieval times was the name for the piece of stale bread which you food was served upon. Still hungry after your meal? Then eat the bread which had now soaked up the juices and sauce from the hunk of whatever animal you had been eating.

So far from this being something new this is something rather old.

No doubt we\’ll have someone claiming that this is all a Sharia plot to take us back to before the Renaissance. Look, look, it\’s naan bread, proof positive, see?

We\’re Killing Ourselves!

Look out for more restrictions on who can have NHS treatment: you\’ll need to have your ID card marked with the portions of fruit and vegetables you\’ve consumed each day before long.

Almost 70,000 deaths could be avoided every year if Britons followed healthy eating guidelines, a wide-ranging government report says.

However, it\’s a little difficult to take the figures on offer seriously.

The nation\’s poor diet costs the economy £10 billion, of which £7.7 billion comprises NHS treatment that could be avoided if people cut down on fatty and salty foods and ate more fresh fruit and vegetables.

There\’s a basic point about the NHS. Because it covers us all, for our lifetimes, it\’s rather difficult for us to cost it money by dying early.

Those who die prematurely would have lived for almost 10 years longer if they adhered to dietary advice, the report says.

Hmmm. Now, NHS spending per capita (from memory here, so hope I\’ve got it right) is some £1,800 a year. Pop your clogs 10 years early and the NHS thus saves £18,000 on you. And if you don\’t die of your unhealthy lifestyle, you\’re going to die of something else, something which may cost more or less than what you have got.

So while we can indeed say that the costs of treating those with these diet related diseases is £7.7 billion, when we do we\’re not actually being all that honest. For the amount saved by those 70,000 having 10 years of NHS treatment is £12 billion or so (please note, these are very rough numbers indeed, used only for comparison).

…the report says that if everybody ate healthily the economy would be £20 billion better off due to the reduced health care costs and extra years of productive life.

That\’s also a terribly suspect figure. We\’re told that it\’s 10 years of life being given up on average. The average lifespan is into the late 70s for men, early 80s for women. Whether we assume that this is before that extra 10 years or after it, those extra 10 years are all past the pensionable age. People at this time of life are not known as contributors to the economy (please note that this has nothing to do with the fact that rising lifespans are a great idea, we\’re talking solely about the financial calculations here), in fact, they\’re known as something of a drain on it. 70,000 people with another decade of the State pension is actually a cost of some £35 billion rather than a contribution to the productive side of the economy.

But don\’t worry, government policy is going to be determined by what\’s in that report, not what is actually true. Aren\’t we lucky?