Last week’s Lancet published results of research and comment that maternal fish consumption benefits children’s development”. This information requires urgent action in introductions in widely acceptable additions to choices in the British food market.
1. Guts and hearts are organs yielding some place in the nation’s health and lifestyle policies to bones and brains, with vascular complications common to all these contexts. Essential fatty acids and omega 3s and omega 6s have gained renewed significance in areas of research in which these substances were comprehended in the description of vitamin F and curiosity over “Eskimo diets”, which were very high in marine fats and less sticky blood in the consumers – which was not necessarily a benefit for the Inuits who lived vigorously but dangerously in the practices of killing and butchering marine mammals and fish with the consequent risks of cuts and bleeding wounds.
2. Government agencies and the ailing fish industry, abetted by the psychologists perceiving possible sources of wisdom in the saying that “fish is good for the brain” (possibly an item of the ancient nutritional Doctrine of Signatures – John Bull lived on beef, for instance, whereas Germans were Huns who ate a lot of swinish flesh in various forms; but, incongruously, the liking for pickled vegetables earned the style of Krauts – and the slippery French were called Froggies etc) examined the effects of food and eating practices on behaviour and learning (broadly defined as cognition by educationalists).
3. These matters were not lost on scientifically-minded veggies, whose lifestyles might be determined from conception by inherited predisposition (the “compassionate gene” concept) and environment or by abstention from bellicosity generated by factors carried in the “fish, flesh, and fowl” of animals terrified at the time of slaughter and with stressor hormones pouring through their bodily fluids and tissues. Inspection and comparisons of meat (including fish) at the butchers’ or in the kitchen for its color and texture manifest in DFD (dark, firm, dry) beef (especially from uncastrated animals) and PSE (pale, soft and exudative, especially from pigs notable for excitability and susceptibility due the “halothane gene”, which some humans carry and so require especially care from anaesthetists).
Has Fish Had its Chips?
4. The fishing industry – a crude and intensified form of hunting for human food – is beset with manifold problems contributing to its decline. The dismay is not much alleviated by developments in fish-farming, and the constituency of fish-abstainers comprises far more objectors than earnest veggies to campaigners for conservation and the environment and the consequent disquiet over pollution, by-catches, overfishing, factory-ships, and whaling, not to mention animal welfare. The demise of the demotic fish-and-chip shop (and its replacement by eateries in other – and exotic –styles) together with belated attempts to elevate it up-market tell the story of memories of school meals and Friday smells, and of persistent fishy tastes and suspicions. Nonetheless, a generation now living out their final years can recollect that cheap fish and chips (and mushy peas) probably saved Britain from frank protein-calorie-vitamin C deficiency in the Depression years of poverty in the 1920s.
5. There are many people keen to avoid resorting to fish and fish products. Dietary vitamin A and vitamin D and sane lifestyle are pleasanter thoughts of positive health than obligatory doses of cod liver oil. So are there unobjectionable ways of enjoying the new-found attributes of fishy diets? There are such alternatives and we have been following the possibilities and innovations.
6. This is an opportune time to stimulate interest and action from food manufacturers, retailers, and commentators, as well as the press, government agencies, and researchers in alternatives to fish products with the required attributes and even fish-alikes where the fishiness need not be modified or in products lacking such taints. The International Food Event 07 in London from 18th to 21st March may offer glimpses of developments with these alternatives, building on opportunities exploited mainly with vegetable oils rich in omega3s that may be precursors or alternatives to the factors prized in fish oils. Experimental GM may also yield examples of suitably modified rapeseed or sesame oils. Opportunities for enterprise and competition are coming from changes in the declining market for foods labelled as “suitable” or even “approved” for vegetarians and vegans, out of which in new hands (notably Premier Foods) for foods for meat-frees, dairy-frees, and fish-frees are emerging more attractively and effectively (Premier Foods now owns the Quorn and Cauldron ranges).
7. And a timely paper in the Lancet (Maternal seafood consumption benefits children’s development, The Lancet, 369: 9561, 17 Feb 2007, online open access) has appeared to pursue matters that continue our message; however the paper and comment lamentably ignores the health-conscious consumers whose aversions and searchers for alternatives have now become urgent. We have distributed the following text widely, and are constantly seeking new facts – or factors: could fish meat and oils contain activities not yet fully appreciated? Vitamin D substances, perhaps? We recall how the elusive “animal protein factor” became vitamin B12 and was a wonderful growth-booster for the veggie cause. And the “fish-solubles factor” which put weight on broiler oven-readies in the early days, turned out to be common salt -s odium chloride – the high content of which made the birds drink a lot, become edematous, and this become profitably heavier.
8. The enthusiasm in the dairy industry and organic sector for CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids), which are involved in the network of pathways leading to long chain polyunsaturated fats esteemed in fish - some have trans-sonfigurations - has subsided.
Fishy tales in the Food Industry. Bolder Innovation Needed.
Last week’s Lancet published results of research and comment that “maternal fish consumption benefits children’s development”.* This information requires urgent action in introductions in widely acceptable additions to choices in the British food market.
Information and advocacy from the department of Health and the FSA put any consumers in the UK in a quandary because they are adverse to consumption of fish and derivates for various reasons beyond the reservations of advisers sounding caution for restraints on over-consumption of fatty fish. Vegetarians, animal welfarists, conservationists, environmentalists, and consumers with various allergies and religious persuasions loath to compromise their principles without evidence of the availability of unexceptionable alternatives for the many people who find consumption of fish products disgusting.
Such alternatives are becoming available as a results of the cultivation of microalgae, which yield the essential very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC PUFAs) from which fish derive their contents of these compounds to pass on to human consumers. Algal “biomass” has already been tried in feeds for animals farmed to produce appropriately in rich meat and eggs.
Products are already on sale in parts of Europe and in the USA that could relieve the anxieties of British consumers. However, they are not on general sale here in the UK. The products are results of innovations in the vigorous dairy-free market producing milk and baby food directly from plant sources.
We are appealing therefore for urgent catch-up enterprise in the UK from manufacturers and retailers in the British food trade to bring these alternatives onto the market here in the UK. Most supermarkets in the UK now sell chilled and UHT dairy free milk and derivatives such as yogurts. Major pharmacies sell such products for people with special needs.
Such foods exhibit good nutritional standards already. They need to be bettered significantly and urgently with innovatory applications with microalgae, or with imported products.
*Maternal seafood consumption benefits children’s development, The Lancet, 369: 9561, 17 Feb 2007, online open access from the Lancet (free registration).
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