VISION – Have you heard about our Virtual Interactive Food Hall?

 

VISION is an interactive online shopping game & information tool based around a food hall and devised by the Service to help educate consumers on how to go about eating a balanced diet and essentially enable people to make more informed decisions about the food they eat.  When logging onto the site you will be invited to either explore the food hall at your leisure or take up ‘Are you Balanced?’ challenge.

The hall contains over 130 different foods each with their own ‘food label’ containing:

1) Generic information about fat, salt and sugar levels as represented by the Food Standards Agency traffic light system
2) The category each food falls into as dictated by the Food Standards Agency Eatwell plate
3) Interesting scripted nutritional and did you know facts

The challenge is based on the Food Standards Agency ‘eatwell plate’ and the user is asked to select 15 items of food to cover a day’s supply of meals, so breakfast, lunch and evening meal. Once the selections have been made, each item is scored and assessed against the eatwell plate at the checkout stage and the user is told how ‘balanced’ they are.  A receipt can be printed off at this stage and the user (depending on how well they have done) will either have the option of entering their name on a ‘high scores board’ or have the option to try again.  It is important to emphasise that the idea is not to create winners or losers, but get people thinking more about eating a balanced diet.

To complement the food hall we now have podcasts,  a game and food related quiz that tests amongst other things what has been learnt during a visit to the hall.  Indeed VISION now has the potential to provide a useful online educational tool for all who use it, especially secondary schools and adult education training programmes up and down the country.  

If you would like to comment on the site or think that you might be able to use the site for educational purposes, please get in touch with Heather Woodward on (01452) 426219 or email heather.woodward@glouucestershire.gov.uk .  VISION can be found at www.visionfoodhall.com, or accessed via the Gloucestershire Trading Standards website.

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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.

Winter mood food

Did you know that winter depression, otherwise known as “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD, is thought to affect up to one in 15 Brits every year between September and April? Around another 17% of us are said to get a milder form of the condition, known as the “winter blues”.

A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Here are some top tips from the Food Vision Team to help you get through the last leg of winter!

  1. Always eat breakfast. This will give your mood its first lift of the day.
  2. Change your eating habits by taking regular snacks throughout the day incorporating foods like chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and dried fruit to keep those sugar levels up.  Get out of the habit of thinking you need three large meals a day.  
  3. A deficiency in selenium has been linked to feeling low.  Brazil nuts will help with this as will eating foods rich in omega oils. Choose oily fish such as fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines.  Non-fish omega-rich foods include walnuts, hemp oil and seeds.   
  4. Turn to protein-rich foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk — as these are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which converts in the brain to mood-enhancing serotonin. Make sure lunch and supper contain protein alongside starches — pasta, bread, potatoes.  
  5. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. These will help you get brain boosting B vitamins together with vitamin C.  Fresh juice and salads are always a good place to start. 
  6. Drink water throughout the day.  This will keep your concentration levels up and help flush out your system. It will help digest the extra fibre you’re eating too.  Keep teas and coffees to a minimum as the caffeine will affect your mood, and cut out alcohol and fizzy, sugary drinks altogether. And finally…
  7. Do more exercise or get outside more. This boosts your circulation and produces endorphins, ‘feel good’ chemicals. Being in the sunshine makes you feel less drowsy and gives you more energy.

For more general information on what to look for on a label and interesting nutritional facts visit our virtual food hall now and take up our challenge!  Go to www.visionfoodhall.com

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.

Should we worry about ‘out of date’ food?

food-labelHow much do we really know and understand about the dates given on our foods that we buy from supermarkets, grocers, butchers and the like? Apparently not a lot if the high food poisoning figures for the population are looked at. Is this due to us not understanding the meaning of the dates or how to store foods or how long to keep them for?

There is much confusion over durability dates given on food, with newspapers and television programmes happily discussing ‘sell by’ dates. There is no such thing as a ‘sell by’ date any more. The two types of durability dates are the ‘use by’ date and the ‘best before’ date.

A use by date is given on foods ‘which from a microbiological point of view are highly perishable and in consequence likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health’. In other words, they need to be stored in the fridge, they are going to go off quickly and could possibly give you food poisoning if they are eaten after the use by date. They will be found for example on meat, fish, ready meals, dairy foods such as cream or soft cheeses, pre-packed salads, foods containing eggs, such as egg sandwiches, etc.

You should always keep foods with a use by date in the fridge, and eat it within that date. You should never take a risk of eating it after that date even if it smells OK, as you cannot tell from the smell or look of it whether it is harmful to you.

A best before date is used on foods which do not have to be stored in the fridge as they are not highly perishable, such as tinned and dried foods such as coffee or pasta, cakes, bread, cereals etc. These products can be kept on the shelf for long periods of time without ‘going off’, and even then the food is only likely to go stale or hard as with bread and cakes, and will very rarely cause any food poisoning.

In shops, a food which is past its use by date cannot be sold or even displayed for sale as this is an offence. It is the shop’s responsibility to check the dates in their fridges and remove any foods before they reach the end of their use by date.

A shop can still sell a food past its best before date, as long as its quality is still OK. The responsibility for the quality of the food sold past its best before date passes from the manufacturer to the retailer, so the seller must ensure they have stored foods correctly in the shop and have a good system of stock rotation.

We do hope this article helps explain the differences. Have you been ever confused by use by/best before dates? Do you think we throw away too much food that is fit to eat? Write in and tell us your experiences…

Apr 09 – Do you want to count calories when you eat out?

How many calories?

How many calories?

The Food Standards Agency has announced that eighteen major catering companies, including many high street names, are to introduce calorie information on their menus for the first time.

These include workplace caterers, sit-down and quick-service restaurants, theme parks and leisure attractions, pub restaurants, cafes and sandwich chains.

Each company has agreed to:

  • display calorie information for most food and drink they serve
  • print calorie information on menu boards, paper menus or on the edge of shelves
  • ensure the information is clear and easily visible at the point where people choose their food

The FSA believes that the move will benefit individuals and families trying to choose a healthier diet. They see it as the first step towards more clarity for people when eating out.

But is it too small a step? Would it be more useful to have the same information on the salt, fat and sugar content of meals when eating out as many supermarkets give on the food you take home with the traffic light labelling scheme?

Or is it a step too far? If it became compulsory would it place an unwelcome burden on small businesses? Food analysis is not cheap and content labelling can only work if products are absolutely consistent. This may be all very well for the big players with their strict ‘portion control’ but would it stifle the creativity of smaller producers?

What do you think?

Rob says….

I am delighted that the Food Standards Agency and a number of companies have agreed to sign up to the profiling of their menus. This is so important for us as customers to make better choices about the food we eat. I remember though nearly 10 years ago a discussion about such a scheme and that is was going to be too difficult, ‘Nanny state’ was mentioned at the time and yet here we are! I think it will mean that smaller food outlets and restaurants who are independent will need to come on board with a similar ( all be it probably smaller) scale system for their customers if they are going to want to compete and offer what many customers are asking for.
 
The big test though is if it really changes people’s habits – we will wait a long time for those results. This is a good start though. Many parts of the USA have been doing this in various states. New York is a pioneer of such schemes also introducing bans on trans fatty acids and other products. I hope that here in the UK regional schemes will take off that remain relevant to local people. I know that as part of Tewkesbury’s ‘Count Me In’ project there is a team working on helping small business caterers develop skills to reformulate their menus and make them as healthy as they possibly can )without pushing up prices.
 
As time goes on I believe it is harder to keep Healthy Eating as a stand alone campaign – its time to make it simply integral to our loves and choices. Wouldn’t it be great to aspire to have confidence that when eating out every meal has been prepared to be as healthy as it possibly can be?
 
Rob