Eat more fish

It is recommended by the Food Standards Agency that we eat at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish. Fish and shellfish are good sources of protein, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and oily fish is particularly rich in omega 3 fatty acids.  

What is classed as oily fish?  
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring fall under this category and are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which has been linked to improving a persons ability to concentrate.  Oily fish is also a great source of vitamins A and D, the latter being essential for calcium absorption.   

What is classed as white fish?
White fish includes haddock, plaice, pollack, coley and cod and is generally very low in fat and very easy for the body to digest.  White fish does contain some omega 3 fatty acids but not so much as oily fish.  So, white fish is  a healthier low-fat alternative to red meat.  100g of haddock, for instance, contains less than 1g of fat. Lower in fat also means lower in calories.
 
What about shellfish?
Prawns, mussels, oysters, crab and squid fall into this catergory.  Shellfish are very low in fat, are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, iodine and copper.  
For some top tips on how to cook your fish go for steamed, baked or grilled fish or shellfish, rather than fried. This is because frying makes fish and shellfish much higher in fat, especially if they’re cooked in batter.

 If you are concerned with conservation issue, here are some top tips from the FSA to be aware of:  
• Buy a variety of fish to take the pressure off a select few
• Try and buy locally caught fish
• Try to find out how your fish was caught by asking retailers to supply information.
• If you are buying farmed fish, opt for those which have been farmed in open sea conditions. Avoid fish that rely on large supplies of wild-caught fish as feed (again, ask your supplier)
•  Keep asking questions of retailers. Consumer concerns eventually translate into supplier action

For vegetarians, it is worth noting that advice about eating oily fish is aimed at preventing heart disease. According to the vegetarian society, a vegetarian diet should already give you a head start in preventing this ailment.  Good sources of omega 3 oils can be found for the vegetarian diet, for example, flaxseed oil, hulled hemp seeds, rapeseed oil and walnuts all offer a source of omega 3. Again the vegetarian society suggests that a tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day would be a sufficient supply of omega 3.

Here at Gloucestershire Trading Standards we carry out tests each year to make sure you are getting what you pay for.  Some unscrupulous traders have been known to deceive the general public by trying to pass off an inferior type of fish for halibut or something similar which is obviously more costly.  Analysis will quickly show up one species of a fish from another.  If you have any concerns or would like to comment on any aspect of this post, please get in touch now on (01452) 426219.

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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?

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.

Chocolate – Is It All Bad?

ChocolateFor Chocolate Week 2009 Rob Rees, the Cotswold Chef, tells us what he thinks:

I adore chocolate. My wife is making me give it up – in fact it’s been nearly 3 weeks now without it (although I have fallen off the wagon a couple of times for a Wispa Gold). Is it good or is it bad? The science seems to be mixed about chocolate. As a chef I know that in terms of taste there is a massive variety in terms of quality due to the mixture of fat versus bean. Chocolate Week is a real celebration of chocolate starting on 12th October. I may get permission to indulge in a bar or two – maybe some Divine Chocolate as I love it. What are your views on chocolate?

Rob Rees MBE is The Cotswold Chef™

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…