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?

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…

June 09 – Green Vision


During Recycle Week, 22nd to 28th June, Gloucestershire Trading Standards Service virtual interactive VISION food hall introduced a host of useful recycling messages online.

VISION (Virtual Interactive Shopping Information Online) is a web-based interactive food toolkit to help consumers make more informed choices about the food they eat. The centrepiece of the site is an interactive food hall to explore and the ‘Are You Balanced?’ challenge based on the Food Standards Agency eatwell plate.

Working in conjunction with the county council’s Waste Management Unit, VISION can now demonstrate how easy it is to recycle everyday items from food and drink cans to cardboard cereal boxes. The site also points you in the right direction should you need more information.

Cllr Stan Waddington, Lead Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We want to use as many ways as possible to get out the recycling message. Linking up with the VISION project is another way to get people thinking about the waste they produce and how they dispose of it. This is just the beginning of the close working between waste management and the VISION project.”

Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “What a great way to get even more value out of the VISION food hall. Shopping and cooking inevitably lead to some waste. Responsible consumers think not only about what they buy and eat, but about how they can reduce waste and recycle more.”

This year, the theme for Recycle Week was ‘let’s waste less’. You can still choose from a number of pledges to recycle more and cut down on your waste by going to the homepage. In addition you can register your support by using your mobile phone. Text PLEDGE to 60030 and pledge to waste less.

Eddie Coventry, Head of Trading Standards, said: “The recycling messages have really added value to what we are trying to achieve as a service and we are hopeful that the general public will find this a useful resource. VISION set out to provide an interactive, engaging element to the way the service presents aspects of food labelling, health and nutrition, and with the latest additions is all the more a rounded product.”

To find out more log on to www.visionfoodhall.com

Jan 09 – Zero Waste Week

food-waste26th January to 1st February 2009

With Zero Waste Week just around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to ask whether any of you out there will be taking up the challenge and having a go? 

The aim of the week is to encourage as many people as possible to reduce the amount of waste they produce and to recycle and compost as much as possible.  Our resident blogger Rob Rees is fully behind the initiative and is calling on all of us to have a go! 

It is so important for our environment and indeed the money in our pockets that we utilise as much of our leftover food as we can with lovely dishes like Shepherds Pie, Spanish Omelettes, Apple Fritters, Banana Digestive Cake and so many more.

We are informed that Gloucestershire households throw away on average almost 3kg of food each week.  That is the equivalent of 390 tins of baked beans every year!  This wasted food usually ends up in landfill, where it contributes to the production of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – that is harmful to the environment.

It is clear that action needs to be taken so we fully support this particular initiative and would like to wish the best of luck to all who plans to takes part.  Let us know how you get on!

For more details and to sign up to Zero Waste Challenge Week log on to <http://www.recycleforgloucestershire.com/zerowastechallenge/index.html>

Sep 08 – What a waste!

Continuing our theme from last month’s debate – waste – we are concentrating this month on the waste generated by excess packaging.

Despite increases in recycling, domestic waste has risen by 20% in the last ten years. Five million tonnes of packaging are dumped annually. Packaging accounts for one-third of an average household’s total waste and it is calculated that the average family now spends £470 per year on packaging.

The big food retailers have signed up to an agreement, called the Courtauld commitment , to slash packaging waste within five years and also to tackle the amount of food that goes to waste. But do you think they could do more?

Some campaigns urge shoppers to remove “excessive and unnecessary” wrappers and dump them at the supermarket checkout. Most people will be reluctant to kick up a fuss at the checkout, so what do you think we should do?

Are you fed up with excess packaging? Do you have examples of food with unnecessary packaging? We would love to hear your views.

August Debate: So how we can reduce the amount of food we waste?

What a waste!A recent report estimates that the average Gloucestershire household throws away £420 worth of food every year, and local studies show that food makes up as much as 30% of waste going to landfill. Across the UK householders waste approximately 6.7 million tonnes of food each year.

The report was published by WRAP (Waste & Resource Action Plan), a not-for-profit company backed by government funding which aims to help individuals, businesses and local authorities to reduce waste and recycle more.

What can we all do to still eat wholesome food and reduce the amount we throw away – something which is particularly important when times are hard.

Rob Rees – The Cotswold Chef ™ has been looking back in history, and to the future, to create some guidance. He’s been looking at the cookery books of the past from the 1940s and the trends in history when budgets where tight, communities close and transport lean. Not only that but for many new housewives at the time cooking skills were desperate.

The advice is quite simple. It is time to go back to basics. The tips of our grandmothers and great grandmothers can really make a difference… what quality to look for when choosing meat, how much to budget for as a portion, freezing our leftovers, only purchasing seasonal where possible. Recycling foods safely by cooking dishes like rissoles, shepherds pie and fish cakes and buying our non-perishables in bulk will certainly make a difference. The popular return of the pressure cooker will also help reduce our energy costs, preserve nutrients and still allow us time to cook with our hectic lifestyles. Combine the opportunity to eat healthy foods with our new found need to walk or cycle and shop locally to avoid high fuel costs and we could end up tackling the obesity crisis as well as getting a great food culture back as a consequence of the crunch.

Our biggest challenge will still remain the lack of cooking skills.

It’s time for all of us who can cook to adopt a friend, family member or neighbour who can’t and swap ideas and recipes and inspire each other. In addition so many of us are growing herbs, fruits and vegetables – it’s time to start swapping them and managing how we grow things better in our gardens, boxes and plots so that we have a wider variety that can sustain a balanced diet.

Ideas on how to buy and shop:

  • Start to plan your meals and keep a diary list of them.
  • Incorporate into your home menus dishes that you know will create enough leftovers for a further meal to support all your household on another day
  • Create a shopping list and costing sheet for each of these menus.
  • Allow yourself though to be inspired by the new seasons and try shopping somewhere new to see a wider variety of fresh items perhaps.
  • Bulk-buy non-perishables – such as grains, pulses, pastas, tinned and jarred foods. This will be cheaper and are always useful to have in the store cupboard to bulk out dishes.
  • Remember that a good portion of breads, rice and pasta dishes will fill your children up and so they are far less likely to need to graze on the sweets, biscuits and chocolates that can be expensive and less healthy.
  • Portion control is really important. By aiming for the recommended portion in terms of a healthy diet you can also end up being really thrifty. We have all been spoilt by piling our plates high. A portion of fish is 140g. A portion of fruit/vegetables is 80g. A portion of meat 100g.
  • To control your waste consider shopping at places where you can pick and choose exactly the amount of food you want, e.g. farm shops, markets, greengrocer, butchers, bakers and deli counters of supermarkets and other independent stalls.
  • Understand that as you cook food it shrinks or there is natural wastage such as peelings or cores. Try and estimate the correct sized ordering of meat or fish to match the required final portion. Add into the equation the consideration of do you buy aiming for enough leftovers to create a further family meal or just a few odd bits.
  • A roasted joint on a bone will loose approximately 35% of its uncooked weight during cooking
  • A piece of fish on the bone and skin will loose approximately 25% of its uncooked weight when boning and skinning.
  • Be wary of 2 for 1 deals & buy 1 get 1 free (BOGOFs as they can be known as). Check the deals are in fact a deal! Check the use-by dates on products, as often ‘deals’ can be a way for retailers trying to get rid of items! Also ask your self do you really need the extra item, are you going to use them?
  • Buy whole fruits & vegetables. Often pre-packed, prepared produce has a shorter shelf life. Store them in a fridge (apart from bananas). Left over fruits that are going soft can be blended in smoothies or used in fruit crumbles and fruit cobblers whilst vegetables can make quick salsas.
  • Look out for the, often cheaper, cuts of meat that require perhaps a slower cooking method. These can often be enhanced with tinned, frozen or fresh vegetables and fruits.

For more of Rob’s top tips click on the link at the top of the page, and see Rob’s recipes for some basic money saving ideas. Why not send in your favourite thrifty recipe?