Coffee House

MP tries to remove the poison from the food debate

14 February 2014

4:24 PM

14 February 2014

4:24 PM

One of the more unpalatable news stories of the week was the survey by West Yorkshire councils that seemingly innocuous food was made up of all sorts of things that either weren’t what they claimed to be, or weren’t very much like food at all. It’s another sign of the food problems that this country faces, on top of food banks and poor diet. Recently, though, the food debate has become as poisoned as vodka made from antifreeze, with politicians using food banks in particular as a political football to prove their own points, rather than bothering to examine the complex problems behind them.

But one of the MPs who has spent some time thinking about food in 21st century Britain is now trying to encourage independent study of how to improve the food system in this country. Conservative Laura Sandys, who is leaving Parliament in 2015, is setting up an independent think tank called the Food Foundation, which she hopes will do the same for the food system that the King’s Fund has done for health and social care. Its trustees include former Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, Professor Charles Godfray, who directs the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, Boris Johnson’s Chair of London Food Rosie Boycott, and Sandys.

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Sandys wants the Foundation to be ‘a challenging and also safe place for fundamental discussions about the future of the food sector, the big issues facing industry and government and act as a non-confrontational environment to discuss competing public policy issues’.

The Foundation will focus on food and the consumer, food health, food and economy, food and environment, and food and global security. Its first inquiry will focus on the consumer, particularly the affordability of food. The launch document for the consumer theme says:

‘”Food and the consumer” is not an area of policy that either government or industry is focusing on enough. There are short-term crisis that poorer consumers are facing, however it is the wider business model that needs greater analysis to assess whether it is really delivering 360 degree value to the consumer.’

This all sounds very sensible. And if Sandys’ efforts succeed in extracting some of the poison from the food debate, then that will be a very worthy legacy for this MP to leave Parliament when she moves on at the general election.

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Show comments
  • Q46

    Food banks: private charity helping people instead of State charity: why is the former less desirable than the latter?

    Things in food: yet nobody is being harmed or dying. We are better nourished than ever before: some of us were born in times when malnutrition, particularly in children, was commonplace.

    Crowd control: all religions have as a key element dietary rules. How better to control people than by what they eat?

    As the popularity of recognised religions has waned, leaving us free to choose how we live our lives, they have been replaced by neo-religions such as environmentalism and foodism because there are people whose lives are fulfilled if they can get the rest of us dancing to their tune… power.

    We need to stop these people.

  • JoeDM

    And what about labelling halal slaughtered meat so that those who object to cruel ritual slaughter can avoid it?

    • HookesLaw

      Which cruel ritual slaughter would that be. The great majority almost all of sheep and chickens are stunned before slaughter. 75% of halal (and presumably kosher) cattle is pre-stunned. Pigs aren’t a problem.
      In fact the EU has passed higher voltage requirements on chicken stunning which may mean that chickens are dead before arriving for slaughter. This is an EU regulation you may want to agree with.
      As long as the animal is alive albeit stunned then it can be slaughtered according to Halal or Kosher rules. What the religious complaint is is that stunning can in fact kill before exsanguination.
      Your ‘ritual’ is just someone muttering a few prayers over the slaughterer’s blade.

      • Alexsandr

        but why should we be denied the choice. What are they trying to hide?

        • HookesLaw

          Nobody is hiding anything. Slaughter houses are inspected to a common standard.

          • Alexsandr

            you haven’t answered the question. why cant halal and kosher meat be labelled so customers can avoid it if they wish?

            • Alexsandr

              no answer. I see.

          • saffrin

            Which is what, counting the money in the plain brown envelope?

      • saffrin

        In what idiotic World do you live to think muslim owned slaughterhouses give a shyte for our laws?
        Jeeze and you have the neck to blame UKIP for splitting the Tory vote.
        If people like you are voting Conservative, it’s the Tory vote splitting Labour’s.

  • Monkey_Bach

    I think the Catholic Church would beg to differ with the Coalition.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/a-disgrace-catholic-leader-vincent-nichols-attacks-coalitions-welfare-reforms-9129952.html

    As a supposed practising Catholic himself I wonder what IDS thinks about this.

  • London Calling

    I ate a cake
    But it was fake
    it turned me blue
    my tongue it grew
    I turned a little grey
    what is this pray

    some strange kind of food
    That turned me blue
    Whatever shall I do?………………..:)

  • saffrin

    The Food Foundation, another six figure salaried quango doing no more for the food industry than the Kings Fund has done for health and social care.
    Which will be nothing useful then given the state of health and social care in this country.
    Jobs for the boys then, invented by the boys, or girls in this case.

    • HookesLaw

      How is an independent think tank a ‘quango’? Sneering at the Kings Fund, an independent charity, just shows you up

    • Tom Tom

      The Kings Fund was set up to pay for hospitals in 1897 as Prince of Wales Hospital Fund for London and became the King’s Fund when Edward VII did

  • alabenn

    This will be another group of failures telling the poor not to eat the only food they can afford, the alternatives they offer will taste like crap and be mainly vegetable based.

    • Erictheowl

      Soylent Green?

      • alabenn

        Yes that would do, but Charlton Heston is going to taste really bitter by now.

    • monty61

      So your are happy that the poor eat chemical slurry dressed up as food, while the middle classes munch at Waitrose?

      • alabenn

        Leftie butt plugs like you are the ones who keep the poor eating rubbish diets, you lot destroyed the poor`s only hopes when you set about dismantling the education system in the sixties.
        The importing of third world immigrants to work for less money and vote for Labour finished off any residual hopes they had of a decent wage to pay for a good diet.
        As for the bunch of tosspots who will run this so called food foundation, all are failures, so chemical slurry is what the poor will continue with, while waiting for these pillocks to solve the problem, that you and your kind created.

      • Tom Tom

        Don’t be so confident of Waitrose, they use the same suppliers

  • Smithersjones2013

    I’m beginning to think there is something going on between Sandys and Hardman the number of times Sandys gets plugged on here.

    Sandys “legacy” is already set out. She is the first parliamentary victim of UKIP even without a contest. She looked at the results in the county council election in 2013, waved a white flag and ran away.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    I think you’ll find that most of food regulation is an EU competence. Like environment. It is absolutely no use treating things like this as if we in the UK were in charge of them. The highest tier of our government is in charge. It is ridiculous that we debate such matters in our media as if westminster was responsible or accountable. It isn’t. To post here as if it were is to subscribe to a fantasy.

    (Not only that, but when we do get the sop to democracy that is the EP election, the damn stupid Spectator and all its media cohort will be looking at it through a lens of locality. We won’t get anything like the debate we need in order to make proper use of our vote.)

    • HookesLaw

      You will also find if you take the plug off your television in Norway or Greece that the wiring will be the same. This seems to make sense doesn’t it? Are you suggesting that if we left the EU we should revert to the old colour code system for UK wiring and the EU system for exports? Perhaps every country could have wiring based on its national flags?
      What do you think?
      Equally when our food manufacturers export to the EU they should have a seperate labeling system to the one they use for the home market?

      The ‘EP’ – yes it is a pointless waste of space.

      • Rhoda Klapp8

        I am not referring here to the source of the regulations. Regs can come from many sources of which the EU is one. The point is that to treat this as an internal issue, to pretend that the quangos work for the minister or department, is a fantasy. They work for the EU. Our politicians have surrendered the responsibility to deal with them. BUT they still carry on as if they could affect the process. They can’t. But it is so embarrassing for them to say so that the entire UK political class operates as if they were in charge. And that is what I am scornful of in this case and the higher profile one of the EA and the floods. The pretence that we have not concsiously given the powers away, no matter to whom. All of our media are party to it because otherwise the irrelevance of parliament extends to them.

        I’d hope to get the Spect to admit this. Or get Trevor to understand it. I am an optimist, I find.

        • HookesLaw

          They work for us.
          As you say the source of the rules is not particularly relevant – we need rules for food safety and it makes sense to ensure they are wide ranging. We emply people to ensure that food is what it says it is on the side of the tin. We should (although this may be a moot point) be comfortable with the fact that food imported is inspected to similar standards.
          One aspect to the EU is that all substances imported from outside the EU should be to a common suitable standard that we can agree and thus I suppose if re-imported to us is also suitable.

          Whilst the setting and or agreeing of standards (which we have an input into) seems to be a strange bugbear for anti EU freaks it is really quite sensible, harmless and painless and is the inevitable consequence of a free trade area.
          The political as opposed to the economic blatherings of the EU are indeed a different matter.

          • Tom Tom

            Food Rules in the EU are a joke. they are Paper-Based ie fill in the forms to say a cow is a pig and a pig it is. The scandals in Holland, Germany, Austria are so widespread as to be regular. Lithuania currently has African Wild Boar Disease which makes exports from the EU prohibited and Russia has banned EU pork imports.

            Look at the scandal of free-range eggs and poultry, or why NZ Manuka honey sales in the EU exceed NZ production.

            The system is corrupt and the Food Mafia is running circles around the system especially when the Irish Beef Mafia have corrupt ministers in Dublin and Brussels

            • HookesLaw

              Shocking – you would never find horse meat in our burgers would you.

              • Alexsandr

                neigh.

              • Tom Tom

                So long as the Irish control the beef trade and Larry Goodman’s ABP is
                in business and Norwest Foods in Cheshire can slaughter horses you can
                enjoy saddle of beef in your burgers

            • wiggiatlarge .
        • Tom Tom

          Bureaucracy oppresses downwards and genuflects upwards

      • Alexsandr

        we could buy food that looks like food. like local meat from a butcher, local fruit veg from a greengrocer. no labeling needed there.
        we need to stop buying the tasteless chemcal cr@p masquerading as lasagne and start cooking real food again.
        oh but we stopped teaching cooking in schools and made em learn ‘food technology’ instead so no-one can cook any more.
        I had roast pork for tea 🙂

        • HookesLaw

          Seems fair enough

        • Tom Tom

          Your local shop does not grow the fruit and cannot say whether gamma radiation is keeping that Dutch produce extra fresh. The Danish Bacon Company controls the price of gammon throughout the UK and your local butcher probably buys from them. The dairy business is in the hands of Arla from Denmark and Mueller of Germany, and how old is the milk we buy in shops – 10 days ?

          • Alexsandr

            the fruit/veg is labeled according to origin, and much of it is english. another shop nearby even says the farm locally where stuff was grown
            the butcher has a farm and only sells their own beef. They have another shop on the farm and you can meet the meat.
            Their other stuff they say is from no more than 70miles away.
            there again I do live in the vale of Evesham so its easy here. and there are loads of shops competing for the customers who care where their food comes from.
            Milk is a problem though.

      • Daniel Maris

        Have you noticed that your letters posted in the UK tend to end up in the right place on teh other side of the world…and all thanks not to an undemocratic supranational organisation but a voluntary postal union that covers the whole globe.

        • Tom Tom

          Except in the US where after photographing 160 billion envelopes a year they fail to deliver

      • Tom Tom

        The wiring code is independent of the EU – IEC60446 – an International Standard laid down in Geneva and used by Australia. ISO 9001 is basically BS5671. Standards are not set by the EU but by international trade bodies

      • southerner

        Not a good example that eh Hooke? Tom Tom has just embarrassed you.

        Stick with the Cameron adoration mate. It’s what you do best.

    • Donafugata

      Isn’t the EU wonderful?
      All those layers of regulation and still people don’t know when their food is crap. Why does anyone bother?

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    This would be the Sandys who’s such a dripping wet, pro-Green, pro-EU,
    faux-Tory that she’d probably feel more at home in the LibDems: and the
    Spelman who’ll go down in history mainly for having – during an undistinguished
    tenure as Environment Secretary, from which she was reshuffled out –
    re-appointed Labour metro-stooge Chris Smith as Chairman of the
    Environment Agency, with consequences which are now all too evident. Hmmm.

    It isn’t exactly difficult to see precisely where this is going. In no time at all, the Sandys/Spelman “Food Foundation” will morph into just another sock-puppet quango or faux-charidee, probably paying handsome salaries, dependent on taxpayers for more than 50% of its funding, and no doubt lobbying a message-receptive government to spend more, regulate more and (of course) tax more. All in our best interests, naturally. If it saves only one child…..

    • Daniel Maris

      You’re a libertarian…so after we’ve suffered the food poisoning, you want us to go round to the local kebab shop and challenge the owner to a fight on the pavement outside. That’s how libertarians deal with food issues.

  • Raw England

    Let’s be honest, the majority of food they make nowadays is absolutely minging ingredient-wise, looks-wise, health-wise and taste-wise.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Can we start with all food that is halal or sharia compliant being clearly labelled as such in stores. Additionally all institutions that provide or sell food should indicate which elements are halal.

    • HookesLaw

      Does it taste different?

      • Hexhamgeezer

        No. But it’s nice to have a choice and/or to know what one is being fed. granted not something a patrician Cameronian bigot would understand but some folk are interested in food’s provenance on a range of issues, including the imposition of religious ruling.

        I would for instance, choose to eat kosher on the basis that I respect Jews but fundamentally I want to know by whose rules I am being fed.

        • HookesLaw

          Is something done to kosher or halal food? Are you being impregnated with some chemical against your knowledge?

        • Daniel Maris

          I disagree – I think it does taste different because of the draining of blood. It depends what you do to the meat after of course as to how different one dish tastes from another.

        • Tom Tom

          Your kosher pork and shellfish must taste great

          • Hexhamgeezer

            evasive irrelevant tripe

            • Alexsandr

              but is the tripe halal?

              • Hexhamgeezer

                It is possible. Cow tripe being the most popular. Cooked in milk with onions was popular up here.

      • Daniel Maris

        Of course it effing tastes different – don’t you know what Halal involves?

      • Tom Tom

        Yes…fresher because it is 24 hours from kill to counter

        • Hexhamgeezer

          ..and so it surely should be labelled as such. The punters would come flocking would they not?

          • Tom Tom

            Of course it should be labelled but hardly relevant in Indo-Pak stores

            • Hexhamgeezer

              Why irrelevant? Only a racist would presume halalility in an Indo-pak store.

      • Alexsandr

        probably. If the animal is stressed before slaughter, it will ptu adrenalin into its bloodstream and tissue. That tastes and also makes the meat tougher. A properly slaughtered animal will be unconscious before it knows what is happening.

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    • Daniel Maris

      An excellent suggestion Hex. Also, can we have a Halal tax, to pay for the additional inspection regimes necessary to supervising such a cruel method of animal slaughter.

      • Tom Tom

        The abattoirs are licensed for halal and kosher slaughter. Go look at the DEFRA list online and you can see most abattoirs have halal licences

    • Tom Tom

      Halal is not the problem. I eat halal chicken knowing it is fresher and without saline injected. Other meat comes direct from the farm and i know the abattoir so no worries. The issue is the backstreet cutting shops and stolen cattle – quite a lot of this goes on. The issue the food testers flagged up concerned takeaways and how they source food – curry is ideal for disguising meat, and fish is often not what is labelled. Richard North is an expert in this area with his background in food inspection.

      Simply attacking halal is fatuous – it is little different from kosher but apparently Muslims are evil and Jews are special in the minds of some people.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        If asking for information on a food label equates to ‘attacking’ then, yes, I am attacking. Funny how a simple request for information raises so many hackles. I’ve never said that muslums are evil although their holy book certainly looks a nasty bit of work as does the bloke who they consider the perfect man. I can’t see where I’ve suggested that jews are special but a religion that puts a prayer in stone calling for the good health of our Queen and family in the most prominent place of a synagogue certainly is worthy of respect.

        But back to food. Halal should be clearly labelled as it may indicate a poisonous attitude injurious to the health of citizens. ‘May cause Death by Beheading or Explosion’ perhaps or ‘Suitable for Child Grooming’.

        • Alexsandr

          Halal and kosher meat should be labelled as such because it has not been humanely killed. Non halal/kosher meat, the animal is stunned with a bolt through the brain before having its throat slit. in kosher and halal, its throat is slit while its still conscious, which i think is cruel.

        • Tom Tom

          I support you in calling for food labelling, I believe it should state halal or kosher or not. It is a given that ALL NZ lamb is halal but not that all chicken in Tesco and M&S is halal or in school meals.

          It is clear that ALL pork is Non-Halal and NON-kosher without labelling

        • Tom Tom

          “I would for instance, choose to eat kosher on the basis that I respect Jews”

          http://www.meattradenewsdaily.co.uk/news/300610/european_union___new_labelling_laws_for_halal_meat__0.aspx

          Rabbis do not allow pre-stunning of animals because an animal must be
          uninjured before slaughter for kosher use and stunning practices such as
          electrocution or a captive bolt to the brain leave injuries.

          http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/50995/the-first-cut-kosher-killing-ban-shocks-jews

          • Hexhamgeezer

            ..and?

        • Bert3000

          “Funny how a simple request for information raises so many hackles.”

          Because you aren’t at all a racist troll…

          • Alexsandr

            calling islam what it is is not racism because islam isn’t a race, its a religion. Can’t even get the terminology right.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            sticks n’ stones……

    • Shorne

      “Historic data published by the Meat Hygiene Service suggests that around 90% of UK halal slaughter involves pre-stunning.
      Beef and Lamb New Zealand confirmed that while the majority of the beef and lamb imported to the UK is slaughtered using halal methods, it is all pre-stunned.” Farmer’s Weekly

      I don’t need my halal meat labelled as I go to a halal counter in my local supermarket as the meat is of very high quality, leaner than at other butchers and the staff are very helpful and friendly.
      I’m puzzled why, if you are from Hexham, you are so exercised about this as it seems to be a massively predominantly white, Christian place.

  • ButcombeMan

    Food not being what it says it is and the population not knowing or caring what they eat are big issues in the UK. Meat products especially.

    Testing is expensive. As a subscriber to “Which” I would not mind if they did a bit more food testing and exposing and a bit less on cars , I can get that and better, elsewhere.

    • HookesLaw

      Yoiu subscribe to labour supporting ‘Which?’

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