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?

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.

Feb 09 – Fairtrade Fortnight

fairtradeFairtrade Fortnight 2009 runs from 23 February to 8 March.

This 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.

Here Rob Rees tells us his views…

It is fair to say that I have been around the block a few times when it comes to cookery demonstrations and talks. Many of those are within our education system or perhaps Women’s Institute Groups, big food festivals and so on.

Most of the times as I give out the key messages around food safety or healthy eating the audience are engaged, happy and quite content with the hour or so entertainment neatly arranged for them. However, as with the issue around “Zero Waste Week” last month, the subject of fair trade truly gets people animated, excited and often with split opinions.

The youth of today, you know the ones that always get labelled by us blinkered older generation who often judge books to hastily by their covers, embrace the concept of fair trade so much better and openly than those of us who have formed habits and ideas through years of purchasing and misplaced consumerism.  Maybe it is the information highway and the fact that schools in Gloucestershire can reach out to third world education systems and global influences at a touch of a button, or perhaps it may be just because they care and purchasing power makes a difference. Either way the new generation, the future generation, get it!

I do too. I just have a few things to facilitate the debate for you guys on the blog – devil’s advocate again people….

  • Do fair trade products taste better than say organic or local or food sourced from elsewhere?
    (I love the vanilla @ Cotswold Ice Cream Company, which is a great fair trade product by the way.)
  • 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?
  • Can the concept of fair trade, such as long term fixed price contracts for the farmers and producers, be applied to UK production? Shouldn’t that be the norm?
  • How can I trust it? Who enforces such a standard when it is applied on such a grand scale?
  • Does my money really make it to the person who needs it the most?

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.”

What do you think?

Anyway I’m behind the principles of fair trade and look forward to the fortnight that starts on the 23rd February. 

To find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight go to http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved/fairtrade_fortnight/fairtrade_fortnight_2009/default.aspx

Vegetarians and Burgers

In this burger debate it would be too easy to let the voice of Vegetarians go unheard. We weren’t prepared to let that happen. We spoke with Su Taylor of the UK’s Vegetarian Society. The Vegetarian Society is the oldest vegetarian society in the world and committed to promoting vegetarian choices and lifestyles.

Su was keen to answer our questions and discuss the Vegetarian’s take on the burger. First, we tackled moral implications concerning Vegetarians and eating meat burgers (or any meat for that matter). Su explained:

In a survery conducted on behalf of The Vegetarian Society, the majority of people said that  they gave up meat and fish because they did not morally approve of killing animals, or  because they objected to the ways in which animals were kept, treated and killed for food.  But there are as many reasons for becoming vegetarian as there are vegetarians.”

Su also pointed out the health angle provoking many people to become vegetarians:

 “Many  people are becoming vegetarian because it matches the kind of low fat, high fibre diet  recommended by dietitians and doctors. The environment is another contributing factor as  people become more aware of the environmental effect of raising animals for meat. Some  might also be concerned about wasting world food resources by using land to raise animals  for meat instead of growing crops that can feed more people directly”.

To vegetarians, eating a meat burger is environmentally unfriendly and unhelpful in the current food crisis climate. However, Su didn’t neglect burgers entirely. Instead she pointed us towards the Vegetarian Society’s approved range of veggie burgers. But are these any good?

Yes! But there are lots to choose from so it’s worth looking around the supermarket and your local wholefood shop” Su also notes the healthy aspect of these burgers. “It depends what it’s mae with and the way it’s cooked, but they can be much healthier. Veggie burgers come in all shapes and sizes nad are made from a variety of ingredients like pulses (Beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas), nutes, seeds, soya, Quron and wheat proteins“.

What do you think? Do you agree that vegetarian burgers might be healthier and more environmentally free than meat burgers? Is it ethically better to eat a Veggie burger than a meaty burger?


June Debate: So what’s wrong if I have a burger?

Eat me!Rob Rees says…

I expect you imagine me to be all evangelical on this one and that I shall chastise anyone who happens to put a huge chunk of meat slapped between two baps anywhere near their mouth. Well actually you would be wrong.

I happen to enjoy a burger as much as the next person. However as is always the phrase these days is “its about the balance”.

I don’t recall my Mum ever giving me processed food as a child. The old fashioned values of cooking from scratch ran deep in our household – even on a tight budget. That meant I wasn’t part of the generation fearful to the onslaught of Mad Cow Disease.

The 1990s saw the John Gummer debacle feeding his child a burger and the proclamation at the time that it’s perfectly safe to eat. What folly! Thanks to the Food Standards Agency, Trading Standards Officers, Meat Hygiene Service and the majority of meat producers we now have a regained confidence in the meat entering the food chain.

Lets also not forget that burgers can be healthy. Imagine quality meat mixed with finely chopped shallots and aromatic spices all bound with free range egg and breadcrumbs and grilled with a drizzle of olive oil. Yummy. Reality says that doesn’t exist. There are tough minimum requirements for meat content for such mass produced items and definitions around natural and homemade that you can read about further on the site. This should make things more nutritious for us and certainly easier for us to make the right choice.

School Food has moved away as much as possible from shaped products in recent years so that we can get young people recognising what real food looks like. In an environment where up to last year children had the chance to eat a burger or processed item every day with very little true meat content it is absolutely right to say you cant have it anymore.  

As for the rest of us… some of the fast food outlets create items that give us a quick shot of energy and very little. Once in a while to indulge is your choice. For those that do it more regularly you become other peoples problem as the obesity crisis deepens and challenges our economy. There will always be those that buck the trend. I had an Auntie who smoked 40 a day and lived till she was 80 but that doesn’t make it right.