Saturated Fat -The Facts

Last year the Food Standards Agency launched a public health campaign to raise awareness of the health risks of eating too much saturated fat. The UK is currently eating a staggering 20% more saturated fat than current Government recommendations. As I’m sure many of you are aware, the long term effects of eating a diet high in saturated fat are that it can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, angina and strokes. Cardio Vascular Disease is the most common cause of death in the UK and in 2006 was responsible for about one in three premature deaths. It is a well known fact that diet is a key risk factor in heart disease and it is estimated that cutting our intake of saturated fat could prevent up to 3,500 premature deaths a year, and therefore save the UK economy more than £1 billion a year in related costs.

Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood over time. Foods which are high in saturated are:

• cakes and biscuits

• cream, soured cream, crème fraîche and ice cream

• meat products such as sausages and pies

• pastries • butter and lard

• cheese

• some sweet snacks and chocolate

There are a whole host of simple, positive and practical steps we can take to help improve our health and reduce the risk of developing diet-related illness. • The Food Standards Agency have some great tips on how to make small changes to your daily routine some of which include:

• Trying a skinny latte rather than a whole milk latte next time you find yourself are in your favourite coffee house.

• If you are tempted by pizza now and again, try choosing a lower-fat topping such as vegetables, fish or prawns, instead of pepperoni, salami or extra cheese.

• If you enjoy spaghetti bolognaise go for leaner mince to reduce the saturated fat content or try it vegetarian-style for a change.

• When you are cooking, use an unsaturated oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive, rather than butter, lard or ghee and go for thick, straight-cut chips instead of French fries or crinkle-cut, and if you’re making your own, pop them in the oven with a drizzle of sunflower oil, rather than deep-frying.

Of course most people don’t have time to tot up the amount of saturated fat they are eating every day but it’s a good idea to take a look at how much saturated fat is in different foods. As a general guide:

High is more than 5g sat fat per 100g

Low is 1.5g sat fat per 100g

The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day, the average woman should have no more than 20g saturated fat a day.

So we here at the Vision Food Hall advise you to take a closer look at the label to moderate you saturated fat intake. Trading Standards make routine checks to ensure the information provided on a label is accurate, honest and true. Visit our virtual interactive food hall at http://www.visionfoodhall.com for some interesting nutritional facts about a whole variety of foods.

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Fairtrade Fortnight

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 22nd February – 7th March 2010.

The Fairtrade Foundation is the independent non-profit organisation that licenses use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products in the UK in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade standards.   Fairtrade Fortnight is an annual event which aims to encourage people to make a difference to the lives of producers in the developing world by choosing fair trade.

Essentially, it’s about giving a fair deal to the people who produce our food in some of the world’s poorest countries. Fair-trading schemes usually aim to pay a premium over the market rate for goods. This ensures that workers get a fair wage and are treated well, and that communities in poor countries can use profits to invest in their future.
This year the Fairtrade Foundation are asking consumers to join in on the “The Big Swap”. For two whole weeks consumers will be asked to swop their usual stuff for Fairtrade stuff.  So your usual bananas for Fairtrade bananas, your usual red wine for a fair-trade option and your usual cuppa for a Fairtrade cuppa.  It is hoped that every swop will prove that the people of the UK want producers in the developing world to get a fairer deal.

The foundation think this is a brilliantly small step to making the world a fairer place meaning all can show their support for developing world producers through what you buy. Two billion people – a third of humanity – survive on less than $2 a day. Unfair trade rules keep them in poverty, but they face the global challenges of food shortages and climate change too.

The Fairtrade foundation strongly believes that developing world producers should be in control of their own lives by simply getting a better deal for the work that they do. 

To quote the BBC Food website:  “There are sceptics who regard fair trade as unfair interference that encourages overproduction of certain crops and makes farmers dependent on handouts.” 

Now it’s over to you…

So, a few questions for you to spark some debate today:

  • Do you think fair trade products taste better than organic or local or food sourced from elsewhere?
  • If it isn’t about taste, is it a product only purchased for the ethical reasons? If that is the case is it truly sustainable as a concept?
  • Do you trust it? Who enforces such a standard when it is applied on such a grand scale?
  • Have you ever wondered whether your money really makes it to the person who needs it the most?

New Year – New Diet?

Amanda Glos writes…

As the New Year opens up in front of us, it is a time many of us embark on a pledge to a healthier diet regime, but please STOP, LOOK & READ the labelling of the food you are eating and don’t get fooled like me.

Let me explain. As a treat I bought myself some Medjool dates. Something that I thought was pretty healthy, as they are just dried fruit. As soon as I got home I decided to tuck into one. It tasted so wonderful I thought I would have just one more. It was at this point my eye caught a logo on the pack “1 of 5 a day = 4 dates”. So whilst munching through my second date I thought I would be very virtuous and eat 4 dates. I thought at least I could knock off one of my five a day fruit and veg. Feeling very pleased with myself I started eating the third date. It was at this point that I started feeling decidedly sick, and unable to eat anymore. Returning to the packaging for some clue or other, the answer was there, right along-side the logo “1 of 5 a day= 4 dates”! If I had eaten the 4 dates I would have consumed almost 60% of my sugar for the day!

I felt that the “marketing men” had got to me and I had been taken in by them. All the information I needed to make an informed choice was on the label, and in this case side by side on the front of the pack. My eye had been drawn to part of it and I didn’t bother to read any further. So please, STOP, take a closer LOOK, and READ the whole label so that you can make a balanced approach to your food.

For more information on food labelling go to the Vision virtual food hall.

What’s really on your Christmas menu?

 
With the festive season upon us many of us are already eyeing up the Christmas menus in anticipation – but how much is your choice influenced by descriptions that may not be all they seem?

The No Nonsense Christmas Menu

STARTERS
Organic Broccoli and Stilton Soup
There are detailed standards which must be adhered before the description ‘organic’ can be applied. The name ‘Stilton’ has legal protection so its use is restricted to specific cheese.
Homemade Chicken Liver Pate
The term ‘homemade’ can only be used for products made at home, or made in a way that reflects a typical domestic kitchen, such as a pub kitchen.
Traditional Fishcake
The term ‘traditional’ can only be used to describe a product that has existed for around 25 years.  The ingredients and process used to make the product should have been available, substantially unchanged, for that same period.

MAINS
Sausages and Free Range Eggs
A ‘sausage’ only contains a minimum of 32% pork, compared to at least 42%
 pork if it is called ‘pork sausage’.  Poultry and rabbit sausage only need to contain 26% meat and for all others, including beef, the minimum is 30%.
Eggs described as ‘free range’ must be produced in poultry establishments, which meet standards such as continuous daytime access for hens to open air runs, access to ground mainly covered with vegetations and at least four square metres of ground per bird.
Norfolk Turkey Roll with Seasonal Vegetables
The turkey could be from anywhere as long as it was last underwent a substantial change, in this case rolled, in Norfolk. Slicing, cutting, mincing and/or packing of meat would not amount to the ‘substantial change’ required by law, so a Norfolk turkey breast would have to be from Norfolk.
Using the term ‘seasonal’ could be misleading if it is applied to imported produce, or produce that has been grown in heated greenhouses outside of its natural season
Fresh Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce
The description ‘fresh’ must not be used where ingredients have been tinned, frozen or dried. There is no legal definition of ‘wild’ but action could still be taken if a trading standards officer believed this to be misleading, and that the product had in fact been farmed

DESSERT  
Auntie Annie’s British Christmas Pudding
When using a name this should not lead to the product easily being mistaken for another, similar product, a practice called ‘passing off’.  It also must not already be a registered trademark.
‘British’ does not mean that the ingredients must be British – it may just mean the product has been put together in Britain.
A Light Cheesecake with Exotic Fruit
The world ‘light’ may refer to the texture rather than the product being low in fat, SUGAR? or calories.  It is advisable to clarify the meaning so that it is not misleading.  If it is low in fat, sugar or calories it needs to be at least 30 per cent lower than the typical value to qualify as ‘light’.
 ‘Exotic’ fruit should be fruit that cannot be grown outside in the UK
Selection of Local Cheeses
There is no legal definition of the term ‘local’ but action can be taken by a trading standards officer if it is believed that the description is misleading.

How much did you know and how much did you learn? Many pubs and restaurants visited by trading standards officers across the country have been found to be using misleading menu descriptions. The reputable side of the business are getting increasingly frustrated that some are giving them a bad name.
 
But consumers can find out more for themselves, so we are hoping that by explaining some of the most common terms people will be able to make a more informed choice, ask the right questions and know exactly what they are ordering.
 
Are there any particular descriptions you have found misleading? Let us know.

A Load of Puff? – Mince Pies “Uncovered”

This month’s blog looks at one of the most popular festive foods – the mince pie.

Shops in Gloucestershire have their shelves filled with these, but how can you make sure Father Christmas doesn’t end up re-visiting you after Christmas, grumpily asking what happened to the amount of filling in the pies you left out for him?

The answer can be found by checking the label!

The law requires that most pre-packed foods which are made up of more than one ingredient have to declare the quantity of a particular ingredient when it:

  • appears in the name of the food (or is usually associated with that food),
  • is emphasised in words, pictures or graphics, or
  • is essential to characterise the food

The amount of mincemeat in mince pies therefore needs to be declared. This should appear as a percentage (%) and it usually appears in the ingredients list. It can also appear either in (or next to) the name of the food.

So if you like your mince pies well filled, you can find out exactly how much you will be getting by checking the label. We found that the amount of mincemeat in pies can vary from between 53% for ‘premium brand’ pies to just 30% in ‘economy brand’ pies!

This information is called a Quantitative Ingredient Declaration or ‘QUID’. It is there so that consumers can easily compare similar foods against each other and so help them make a decision about whether or not to buy.

Do you know how much meat is in your sausages? how much chicken is actually in your chicken-tikka masala meal? or how much fish is in your fisherman’s pie? The QUID declaration on the packaging should give the answer.

The next time you are out shopping, perhaps check the QUID declarations on some of the foods you buy, you might be quite surprised!

Contact us if you find something unexpected when looking at QUID declarations on food labels, let us know if you have any concerns.

The Danger of Internet Herbalists Who Claim to Treat Cancer

fennelOne of the greatest obstacles in dissuading consumers from purchasing their goods over the internet has been the risk that they might get ripped off. Yet an even bigger and growing risk is that they might purchase goods that are capable of harming them.

The regulation of herbal remedies sold over the internet has been of particular concern to Trading Standards Officers who are charged with ensuring that goods are safe to use and are not mis-described. In addition, Trading Standards are charged with enforcing the provisions of the Cancer Act that make it illegal to publish claims that goods, including food, can cure or treat cancer unless these goods are appropriately licensed medicines.

Herbal remedies are plants, or mixtures of plant extracts used to treat illness and promote health. People have used plants to treat illness for as long as history has been recorded. Some herbalists believe that their herbal remedies can prevent or cure certain illnesses yet there is no scientific evidence to prove that this is true for cancer.

There are two main branches of herbal remedies, Chinese and Western. Chinese herbalists use plants to improve what they believe is a persons ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’). Many Chinese believe that Qi is the flow of energy in our bodies and that maintaining the balance of Qi is essential for good health.

There has been a rise in the religious use of herbal preparations by pagans who use it both ritually for spell making and medicinally, offering mixtures to treat or cure various illnesses. There has also been a sharp rise in new age pagans offering their treatments over the internet. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and local authority Trading Standards Services are particularly concerned by this as many herbal remedies can have serious and dangerous side effects.

Gloucestershire Trading Standards Service has recently taken action against several internet traders making claims that their herbal remedies are a treatment or a cure for cancer. One internet trader was successfully prosecuted after persistently failing to act when warned about her web pages. There is a clear danger that some remedies offered for sale as a treatment for cancer could react or counteract with a patients existing prescriptions reducing their effect.

There is additional concern that people suffering from cancer, being at their most vulnerable, might assume that natural remedies are not proper drugs when in fact they are. It is vitally important that only qualified medical practitioners should offer advice about treating cancer.

Now it’s over to you. Do you have any thoughts on the content of this article? If so let us know…

A fish called Panga

fishchipsFish and chips!  One of the nation’s favourites, but some of us might be getting more than we bargained for when we order cod and chips!

The national press has recently revealed that some chip shop owners have been making a few extra quid by substituting traditional cod for a breed of catfish farmed in Vietnam. The name of the fish is Pangasius hypophthalmus, commonly known as Panga.

To look at the fish when battered and dripping in salt and vinegar, they look exactly the same, only when raw can the difference be spotted. Panga has a pinkish tinge to its white flesh, where cod is totally white. When cooked, neither has a strong taste and are difficult to distinguish. This is how the fraud is possible.

At wholesale markets Panga sells for half the price of cod but you and I as customers are being charged as though it was the same thing, leading to a tidy profit for the unscrupulous chip shop owner. There is no reason why Panga cannot be sold but it is imperative that it is described accurately and that customers get what they ask for at the counter.

Selling food which is not of the ‘nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser’ is a criminal offence and Trading Standards Officers work to eliminate these occurrences.

So what do you think?…

Would you be angry to find you’d been sold panga instead of cod?
When you order fish and chips do you expect the fish to be cod?
Have you ever tasted Panga?  Tell us your views…