Plan to enshrine ‘a right to access to food in Scots Law’

BBC News – Thursday 17th November

You have to hand it to the Scots – they are certainly the most progressive and socially minded government in the UK. With plans to strengthen food security by making access to food a right of its citizens, Scotland has taken a huge step towards ensuring its people do not go hungry.

The proposed law was a recommendation of the country’s Independent Working Group on Food Poverty which was set up last year to address food insecurity in the country. If passed, it will make the government subject to legal challenge if its policies and resources don’t succeed in ensuring its people have access to adequate and affordable food. This would be a brave move and one that stands in marked opposition to the situation in the rest of the UK, where increasing food insecurity is driving half a million people to food banks. Angela Constance, the country’s Equalities secretary makes no bones about Scottish priorities: “No one should have to rely on emergency food provision in a country as prosperous as Scotland.”

New GP leader calls for rethink of ‘expensive’ five-a-day goal

The Observer – Sunday 20th November

The chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, has recently commented that following the government’s ‘five-a-day’ dietary advice is too expensive for many families. It’s now widely recognised that fresh food costs more than processed food and for many living below the poverty line, such healthy eating is not an option. Stokes-Lampard sensibly suggests that the price of fruit and vegetables should be brought down so that they are affordable by the people who need them most.

The discrepancy between the cost of fresh food and the cost of processed food is one of the defining markers of a food system so out of balance that it has ceased to create health and instead creates illness. The poor are most subject to its strange inversion. While a subsidy system that reduces the cost of fruit and vegetables for those who cannot afford it is clearly needed, ultimately it doesn’t fix the wider problem of a food system that benefits the interests of corporate industrial agriculture, instead of the interests of the people it feeds. We need a regime of True Cost Accounting to rebalance the books and make food fair.

Trump’s top environmental advisor says pesticides aren’t bad for you

Mother Jones – Wednesday 16th November

As US President elect, Donald Trump, puts together his cabinet, it is becoming depressingly clear that environment policy will be taking a very retrograde turn. There are fears that the significant growth in organic and sustainable agriculture in the US could be unravelled through the deregulation of environmental legislation. The appointment of Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency puts a firm climate denier – labelled by the activist group Avaaz as one of seven “climate criminals” working to destroy the planet – in charge of the US environment. The EPA has been reviewing the impact of some agricultural chemicals with an eye towards much heavier regulation and possible bans, but Ebell’s appointment promises a u-turn on any regulatory action.

Along with climate denial, Ebell’s Center for Energy and Environment, claims that the danger of chemicals like the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs) like atrazine are overhyped. The danger to bees from neonics, now supported by a robust body of evidence, is completely dismissed by Ebell while the dangers from EDCs are dismissed as myth.

How bagged salads can massively increase salmonella risk

CBS News – Friday 18th November

The ubiquitous rise of the bagged salad in the last two decades has brought convenience but also dangers – most notably, some very bad outbreaks of food poisoning, including E. coli and salmonella. The washing of bagged salad improved after a major US food poisoning event in 2006 involving bagged spinach, but a new study has shown that bagged salads are still far from safe. It found that the juices from the cut leaves of bagged salads significantly increase the risk of salmonella. This juice adheres in micro-amounts to the salad leaves and in the moist environment of the bag, it gives a big boost to salmonella bacteria by creating a nice medium for them to grow in.

The study’s authors have recommended eating bagged salad promptly and not storing it for more than a day once opened. But a better way to avoid getting salmonella would be to buy a head of lettuce or a couple of different heads of lettuce if you want variety, wash them well, tear it up and eat it straight away. The added plus of this is that you don’t get the liquid fruit acid used to preserve bagged leaves, nor the chlorine that is often used to disinfect them, which food writer Joanna Blythman highlights in her book Swallow This: Serving up the food industry’s darkest secrets.

Photograph: William Murphy

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