Tuesday, 27 November 2012

we do not need no food policies (for school meals)

lack of proper policies on food and nutrition leads to obesity and high cost for NHS...

[ the title of this post is a paraphrasing of some lyrics of "The Wall", another title of this post could be "Ehh, Council, leave the kids alone!" ]

I finished last week the book "Never Seconds".

It is a fascinating read and a really moving book! Martha and her Dad have a charisma!

Personally, this book make me remember my PhD days in Leeds Uni (@the Dept. of Food Science) and also left me with a bitter aftertaste on (the lack of) food policies (hence the title of this post)...

Here are some thoughts on "what next?" after having read the book...

[Apologies for just jotting down some thoughts as a list and not in proper text...]

1. Food and Social issues
Food gives us the nutrients and the energy not only to survive but also to enjoy life!
Life depends on Food and they also say that  Love (Eros) can come more easily after a good meal! Hence, being a good cook is a virtue that most people do appreciate, especially when you try to win the heart of your partner-to-be.
Apart form that though, I think that we need to remember the social aspects of food, families are bonding when they share a meal, colleagues@work as well, and let's not forget that socialising is easier while eating/drinking.

2. BSE and Prions (so wrong practices in meat industry ...an unforgettable "cover up"...)
In Leeds, I had the luck back in 1994 (as a 1st year PhD student) to attend a lecture of Prof Lacey on Mad Cow Disease. It was a module named as "Food in Society" taught at MSc level in the Dept of Food Science that had a vast array of invited lecturers. One of them was Prof Lacey, when he finished his lecture we were quite amazed on what he had taught us...summarized here
The continuation of the story was very sad...

"Lacey's department of clinical microbiology was closed down in 1993 as a result of Leeds NHS Trust - its main funder - forcing a merger with the local Public Health Service Laboratory. His job went with it"
"Lacey, in his book on the food industry, Poison on a Plate, reflects: "It was, in all the attempts ever made to discredit me, the most savage stab in the back that I ever sustained."
But he also says: "Leeds university offered me great support, despite the fact that some of my colleagues had earlier joined the ranks of those against me."
After two years of haggling, Lacey took early retirement on an enhanced pension" ...

It is a story that had caused tremendous discomfort to the then British Goverment, it is a story on the greed of the food industry...

3. GM food and global food crisis

about 4 and bit years ago I was writting in Athens News

Let's consider a different approach, looking closer at the huge potential of
Africa as a continent still fit to produce organic food rather than GM crops.
Thanks to the cause of debt relief being championed by the likes of singers
Bono and Geldof, it is now widely known that most African countries have
crippling and insurmountable debts to which debt relief is the only humane
solution. Given these debts, it is practically impossible for
African countries to afford GM technology
and, therefore, the OECD's
suggestion is scientifically wrong and financially doubtful.

4. Nutrition issues

Since the 7 countries study, where a correlation between Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and Serum Cholesterol levels in humans was studied [see figure above], a lot of research has been carried out in order to understand these findings. For Japan (where people eat lots of fish) and Southern Europe (where people consume olive oil), the number of CHD incidents were about the same regardless the levels of serum cholesterol...  [in a way, this finding from the 60's defies the argument that we need to lower our cholesterol in order to reduce the risk of CHD...]

5. Children and advertisements of junk food

It is quite alarming when top athletes of UK tend to advertise "dodgy" (if not completely junk!) food just for money...Athletes play a model role for our kids and when they advertise such food, parents have a difficult task...in promoting healthy eating patterns...

6. School meals and councils
[I copy paste from page 118 of Martha's and David's Payne book]

Argyll and Bute Council press release [15.6.2012]

"As part of the curriculum for excellence, pupils in all our schools are regularly taught about healthy eating  and at lunch breaks staff encourage pupils to make good choices from what is on offer. We use a system called "Nutmeg" to make sure everything is nutrionally balanced"

7. What is "nutmeg" ? 
ok, I know nutmeg as a spice...but what is really "Nutmeg" that gives "nutritionally balanced" school meals???
Is it based on which current scientific evidence on nutrition?

 8. Martha's meals
it was rather alarming to see that Martha's meals were rather lacking 1) fruits (source of minerals and vitamins) 2) dairy products (source of calcium, so needed by young children) and 3) fish (source of proteins and cardioprotective compounds). All that in Scotland, where good quality fish is produced...How many times a week kids are offered fish or fish products???

9. so...what is "nutmeg" ?
I wonder who has designed "nutmeg" and when this "nutmeg" will be publicly available... 

10. re-evaluation 
we need to re-evaluate the nutritional requirements of kids or do we just need to re-examine nutritional guidelines? The amalgamation of views and practices of nutrition experts, food scientists and technologists and policy formulators is needed...

Conclusively, we need to take into consideration the following:
a/ current knowledge on food chemistry and nutrition,
b/ food ingredients of Mediterranean diet,
c/ data on obesity and diabetes 2 and
d/ cardiovascular diseases and eating patterns...

in order to update the food policies and improve the diets of our children...
we don't need no food policies...

P.S. Martha and David, please try to make "Nutmeg" publicly available! Then, we should understand lots of things about the meals of kids in UK...

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