VEGA News Item

Will Imminent Recession Slaughter Food Standards? - 12/05/2010
Or will the Recession Prompt Worthy Innovation and Thrift?
1.  When it comes to saving the planet it seems consumers would rather do anything than eat fewer cheeseburgers “is the message from an editorial Hot Topic in The Grocer (24/04/10), warning Sir Paul McCartney to look away now.” According to a new survey, “it seems consumers would rather do almost anything than eat fewer cheeseburgers – including cut down on foreign holidays – when it comes to helping save the planet.”
2.  The Hot Topic reports the particularly “ironic news” that in a week that saw thousands of holidaying Brits stranded in international airports – and undoubtedly were spending a good few hours in McDonald’s while waiting to get on planes. Recycling, the use of low-energy light bulbs and fewer car journeys were also ranked by respondents to a YouGov survey for Eblex and Bpex as being preferable to cutting down on meat consumption.
3.  The news will “not be welcomed among the vegetarian and eco lobbies, and goes to show what a hard job it is to change people’s eating habits. It’s a fact that was underlined recently by figures showing that our consumption of healthy foods is actually declining despite the millions spent on healthy-eating campaigns.” The editorial concludes that “it seems many Brits will sit in an airport for days with little word of complaint, but tell them what to eat and all hell breaks loose.”
4.  The UK consumers were responding in a YouGov survey carried out for Eblex and Bpex. Only 21% of respondents said that they would be willing to cut down on their meat consumption to reduce their CO2 emissions. (Eblex and Bpex are parts of the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC), representing the interests of the beef and sheep industries – for ruminants – and the pig industry for omnivorous live/dead stock). The emissions that have to be reduced are not described by species and purposes; emissions from flatulent ruminants engage a lot of attention in discussions of global warming but – as the saying goes with pigs that everything is used but the squeal – cattle yield many products and by-products, as well as meat. Dairying is therefore a major factor; and, as with our forebears, leather and items of clothing, toiletry, pharmaceutical, fertilizers and other examples in the value adding of offals and “wastes”.
5.  The replies show that 23% reported willingness to reduce the number of overseas holidays they took, while 82% were prepared to recycle more and 80% were willing to use lower-energy lightbulbs. “The research indicated that most consumers wanted “to do their bit but not if it mentioned making financial or personal sacrifices,” opined the acting chief executive Richard Lowe, of the Agriculture and Horticulture Board. “The impact of meat consumption on global warming is off the radar for most,” he declared. Instead, consumers prioritised other considerations when buying meat, such as welfare and whether it was British, he said, telling The Grocer that the figures will be “bad news for vegetarian organizations and environmental groups that are hoping to persuade shoppers to give up meat.”
The Saints Come Marching In. It’s Got To Be Green for Go.
6.  VEGA’s campaign for reducing consumption and use of meat and dairy products harks back to factors informing its activities since the controversy in WW2 on the Nation Loaf and the challenges in meeting the protein-calorie requirements of populations all over the world living or subsisting on diets and economies nearer to full vegetarianism than many of the proponents in rich countries can attest to now. Cutting down on meat and dairy is an unassailable and practicable exemplification of Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming and still with relevance in currents affairs. “Green “ interests have launched campaigns full of earnest pronouncements but accompanied by little exemplification and a good deal of confusion; the British public today lacks the fire and drive that informed the reforms and spirit of the Beveridge Report and the exigencies of war. At this General Election the politicians allude to impending prospects of dietary insufficiency and even of civil unrest without practical demonstrations, individually or in corporate action, of the necessary temperate and well-informed changes that scientific organizations such as VEGA set out in the present contexts of reform.
7.  None of the factions involved in the current controversies exhibits a confidente in handling the scientific implications of present changes; nor has the scientific establishment set bold examples of change and innovation; nor have the economists emerged with much glory in stimulating enterprise to uphold joys of living that can survive in gracious austerity. Official advice and procurement of research projects by NGO’s and independent charitable confine scientists to specifically defined experimentation that closes minds. Recent difficulties in a pharmaceutical committee and a run of resignations illustrate this predicament. Open meetings of some of theses, bodies, quangos, and boards offer limited public debate. Chairmen are taught to allow only questions, usually limited in number, to such favoured bodies; evidence that a statement is erupting is quickly suppressed. Scientifically based research Trusts with much experience and interest are becoming overwhelmed by attendances at conferences and in dealing with a flood of questions in consultations. All of these opportunities have to gain attention against competition from bigger organizations with more resources and influence. These heavies exhibit excessive coyness over words such as vegetarianism and cutting down on meat and dairy and examples of the applications and consequences. Unfortunately, as the present shows, there is plenty that they public and food-industry prefer “not to know about” or to relegate to that unlit back burner.
8.  VEGA and its Portfolio of Eating Plans are thoroughly veggie but its mission as a registered charity is to serve all the public. Its experiences in going veggie are particularly valuable when people contemplate a change involving reductions in consumption and use of animal-derived products – meat and dairy (which definition includes fish). The services, on open access, are similar to those offered by the Food Standards Agency but are augmented by extended nutritional and profiling information; accordingly, consumers and carers may make their own choices and changes on good prudent assessments of replacements and measurements of observance. The Portfolio undergoes constant overhauling and extension and application of commonly available ingredients, with occasional feasible adaptation to match, say, seasonal availabilities or to suit other cuisines with followers established in the UK. Lentils for Lent is a theme exercised appropriately for Christian observances, for instance, or for putting into practice New Year Resolutions informed by the calls of the environment and the health and well-being of all species of animal – human, domesticated, and wildlife – managed, feral and truly wild (e.g. migrants) enter into the considerations.
9.  The Plans incorporate research and development in the appropriate disciplines to educate and inculcate a respect, rather than greed, for ingredients and their provenance and cost, as well as the welfare of the producers and merchants. We engage therefore with researchers in academe, as well as with retailers and producers in the food and commodity chains, and we pay special attention to the needs of growing and adolescent children, women of childbearing age and pensioners, some of elderly people knew of wartime rations and the Ministry of Food. The question of fortification and labelling arises anew in thinking on the fortification of flour and bread and the suitability of components of ingredients, additives, and processing aids in foods, pharmaceuticals, and supplements for various purposes and for people with a range of aversions, e.g. on “ethical” grounds, allergies and incompatibilities. Gordon Brown has stimulated debate over the care of the elderly, left alone in unsuitable empty nests after the family of fledgings have vacated the premises and been pitched themselves into the responsibilities of consumership and to the shifts and turns in temporary accommodation. What help can the elderly enjoy when they have to fend for themselves with unfamiliar kitchens equipment, gadgets and technology and with entrenched habits and with no familiar neighbours nor bob-a-job Scouts to do the shopping? Is the ‘meals and wheels service’ adequate for a varied diet for Mrs Gujarati who is a long standing veggie or who no longer enjoys the milkman’s daily visits?
10.  Our advice on vitamin D, rickets and osteoporosis is due for another instalment on our website. It will supplement studies to be reported from the Nutrition Society, after instigation by VEGA at the 2009 Summer Conference. It has also received attention at veterinary meetings.
11.  Vegetarians and followers of healthy diets make excellent subjects for studies in epidemiology, biology, nutrigenomic, metabolomics – as well as economics – and can supplant resort to sacrificial animals for information of common interest in biology, evolution, and genetics. Developments in non-invasive measurements as knowledge of dietary fibre, stool weights, transit times and degenerative diseases advanced into the areas of probiotics and prebiotics and then glycemic index and starches and polysaccharides, in all of which VEGA has been involved in one way or another. Latterly, the connexion of stool characteristics and a simple chemical test was evaluated as a marker of the risk of colonic cancer. Home testing received a poor response from the public, so a new procedure was developed involving an “oscopy”; this involved pushing a mini-TV on a flexible connexion into the rectum to view and snip off polyps and diverticula, which were to be regarded as possible precursors of tumour formation. One of VEGA’s Trustees was an early volunteer in these experiments, the results of which have just been published with satisfactory outcomes and promise of practicable introduction of acceptable wider usage. Prevention being better than cure, testing and screening are subjects of much debate in NHS affairs and the quality of life when the enforced austerity of the recession sets in. VEGA’s research and campaigning are bracing for the common good the benefits of informed choice bring within the limits of austerity. As in the past recessions we aim at serving all members of the public with means of well-informed individual and corporate example equal to the needs of the nation and more.
12.  The latest surveys on attitudes to “green” issues has produced disappointing results at the eve of the elections, where the level of debate, as reported by the press and PR companies, has been deplorable. Cheap (and nasty) food policies must not once again be the price paid for flawed Standards of Living and certainly must not devalue the thrift in the Quality of Life.


Registered Charity No. 1045293
© VEGA - 2008