Tag Archives: health

Avoiding fake hygiene ratings for a tummy-friendly Christmas

I can’t believe that nearly half of the UK general public (41% to be exact) never check food hygiene ratings for restaurants they’re about to visit.

On the one hand, I can see their scepticism about checking. Last year, the FSA warned many businesses about displaying fake ratings on their windows rather than the real McCoy, threatening prosecution. In the UK, businesses don’t have to display the hygiene rating sticker, but it’s becoming so commonplace around the country that windows without any stickers look ominously out of place. Some morally suspect restauranteurs have taken it upon themselves to manufacture a good rating, despite the possible health risks involved. (I can’t help but think it’s less much effort to simply clean your kitchen and practise good food preparation techniques.)

So, ahead of Christmas 2014, the Food Standards Agency is calling on people to check the food hygiene ratings of restaurants before booking Christmas meals, and this is better achieved by using the official app (which you can’t cheat).

So anyway, those statistics … Half of the UK don’t check ratings. Aaargh! It’s not worth the risk! And this is despite 39% of people reporting that they had a bad experience when eating out, and suspecting they contracted food poisoning from a restaurant or takeaway. In other words, you’ve already been burned and you still take the risk.

“The people we spoke to through our poll spend a lot of time and effort planning festive meals to make sure their family and friends have a good time, yet very few make food hygiene a priority,” said Catriona Stewart from the FSA. “It’s quick and easy to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating online. Just go to the FSA website (www.food.gov.uk/ratings).

“Most restaurants have a rating of 3 or above,” said environmental health officer Emma Richbell. “However, as an inspector, I often think consumers would be surprised at which restaurants fall short of good practice. I’d urge everybody to look at the official food hygiene rating, rather than chance it by choosing a place they think will be OK.”

Don’t take chances. If, like me, you love Christmas and want it to pass without any great mischief to your insides, download the app and have a very happy one. In fact, use Foursquare or Yelp and share the good vibes with everybody else!


A peek at Glanbia’s new mill for OatPure gluten-free oats

I’ve spent the day in Ireland with ingredient innovator Glanbia Nutritionals, which announced a big breakthrough in gluten-free purity with the launch of OatPure gluten-free oats.

Certified at max 10 parts perm (ppm) gluten to exceed industry standards, OatPure oats are developed at Glanbia’s new state-of-the-art food grade milling facility in Portlaoise, guaranteeing gluten-free oat traceability and purity.

The day started with a minibus journey to Glanbia’s new state-of-the-art food grade milling facility in Portlaoise. This is a well-known company in the dairy sector, but has specialised in next-generation grains since 2007. Its business evolution has happened over a long period of time, as the company patiently took on new grain endeavours.

Today’s news about the gluten-free oats makes sense, and I can vouch for the impressive new oat mill, which may take this €3.3bn revenue company into new sectors, expanding its reach beyond the 19 countries in which it already does business.

Of course, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the machinery, but I was allowed full access to each stage of the processing on a guided tour by Larry McDonald, head of quality at Glanbia Agrifood. Thanks to Glanbia’s full ownership of the NSF-certified closed loop supply chain process, the plant is unique in processing only oat ingredients to guarantee a certified gluten-free product. The oat processing facility operates to Grade A BRC accreditation and the raw material supply chain is further independently certified.

David the farmer

Glanbia’s agronomists work closely with a team of 20 Glanbia cooperative farmers to initiate the controlled process at seed selection stage, using dedicated gluten-free equipment throughout the protected supply chain system. I met one of these farmers, David Walsh-Kennis, who walked me around his large farm and shared his thoughts about crop rotation, costs and the benefits of growing oats for the gluten-free market.

Once his GPS-monitored land is prepared for planting, the Glanbia team supervises the specialist crop from planting through to sampling and storage to ensure full seed traceability. The oats are examined at all growth stages to optimise rotation, minimise the risk of cross-contamination and ensure the highest quality of pure oats for harvest.

At the milling facility, trained personnel implement an audited labelling and tracking process with guaranteed gluten-free equipment to deliver a fully traceable end product. During processing, the OatPure gluten-free oats are heat-treated for optimum food safety and stability, before being dried, stored and milled in dedicated gluten-free facilities.

The company says the OatPure gluten-free oats are ideal for bread, cookies, granola bars and on-the-go nutrition. By offering beneficial properties such as fibre, protein and ALA omega-3s, OatPure gluten-free oats can enhance the texture and health profile of these products.

“The gluten-free market is expanding rapidly and, as such, offers great potential, as we see consumers opting for gluten-free choices in pursuit of a healthy diet,” said Carla Clissmann, EMEA regional director at Glanbia Nutritionals. “We believe our OatPure gluten-free oats are the purest on the market today, which is testament to our commitment to research and setting the highest standard in regulatory compliance.”

Glanbia’s OatPure gluten-free oats will be available to customers in Europe from November 2014. I’ll be taking a look around the company’s Innovation Centre tomorrow, so will hopefully have some photos to share with you.

Free Evian helps Tube travellers beat dehydration

I’m no doctor, but I have known of the health benefits of being well hydrated since I had an unwelcome case of heatstroke when I was young and invincible.

I am now Chief Annoying Hydration Officer to my nearest and dearest, advocating the drinking of water to solve the many ails of the day. Here in the UK, we’re having some unfamiliar hot weather, so I’ve been particularly busy in keeping everyone up to speed on downing enough water to stave off headaches, low energy, sickness etc.

The news that Danone Waters (UK & Ireland) is giving out free bottles of water to London commuters is really great, and I applaud Transport for London (TfL) for taking the initiative. Free bottles of Evian Natural Mineral Water will be given to customers travelling on the Tube, to the tune of 250,000 bottles.

It’s all part of TfL’s ongoing Beat the Heat and Travel Better London campaign, which aims to raise awareness of how passengers can help to reduce delays and improve the environment for themselves and fellow travellers by making small changes to their travel habits.

Danone Waters has agreed a three-year partnership with Transport for London that will see additional water distribution days across the London Underground network during the summer months until 2017. The partnership will help secure Evian’s presence across London, which is also supported by its annual Live Young January campaigns and sponsorship of The Championships at Wimbledon.

It’s so easy to forget to drink water when you’re having a busy day, so try to carry around a bottle or two of the free Evian or your very own container. Need reminding? Look at tourist kids – they always seem to have a bottle hanging from their backpacks. They could teach our UK kids a thing or two about staying hydrated.

I also wrote about hydration in June, when I shared the Vittel Refresh Cap with you. Has anyone seen this bottle yet?


Starting on 19 August, consumers in New York City can use the hashtag #evianBottleService to have free water delivered on-demand to select locations throughout the city.

Evian begins its ‘Bottle Service’ for three days around Bryant Park and will continue to keep the city hydrated near select parks around the city. Exact locations and times will be announced via the brand’s social media channels.

Is the UK willing to dine on bugs?

I’m not sure about eating insects. I’m already a fussy eater, so the idea of munching yogurt-coated ants while at the local cinema just doesn’t appeal.

I was amused by a report from research specialist Canadean, which said: ‘The way the insect-derived product is presented and marketed will be key in convincing consumers to give insects a try.’

You could apply this to any food, of course, and I will perhaps unfairly bring up the horse meat scandal. If you market anything in a certain way, we’ll probably give it a go.

Spider cupcakeOh, but insects. I’ve seen them in transparent lollipops in Selfridges, more as a curiosity than a sustainable food source of the future. Yet, if Canadean’s predictions are right, and that the European Union’s $3m research investment is anything to go by, we’ll be seasoning our beetles with spider eyes before you know it, and I for one will be holding out until the very last minute before doing so. (I will also be heavily armed and protecting a house full of chocolate from other rebels.)

If it’s just the idea that’s stopping me from embracing insects as food, I should consider what ABC News apparently said a few years ago, about how an average chocolate bar contains eight insect parts, and that anything less than 60 insect pieces per 100g of chocolate is deemed safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Canadean research says that consumers who are given detailed, flavour-focused product descriptions are more likely to consider eating insects, with 46% saying they would be willing to try them. So, if they look like a dried-up creepy crawly, as long as the packaging says they taste like Tic Tacs we’ll be OK? I’m not so sure.

Yet, in the spirit of being positive, I’ll see what happens with the research. Let’s face it, there are almost 2,000 edible insect species, which means 40 tonnes of insects for every human on Earth. They are rich in protein, iron and calcium and low in fat and cholesterol.

“Processed insects will be an easier sell than products where consumers can see the insects in front of them,” said Canadean analyst Catherine O’Connor. “To get past the disgust barrier, insect-derived foods must have a strong visual appeal and not be recognisably bug-based.”

If they happen to be inside my jar of peanut butter without me actually knowing too much about it, I think I’ll be happy. Actually, they may already be inside my jar of peanut butter …

Interview with Daniel Herman from Bio-Synergy

I recorded a Skype interview with Daniel Herman from UK sports nutrition company Bio-Synergy this morning, and found out a lot more about the science that goes into producing functional drinks in order to stay competitive.

It’s a company known for products such as Skinny Water, Skinny Mousse, Beauty From Within, and its new range is called ActiVeman.

You can listen to the interview below, and I’d love to hear from you if you’re producing your own functional drinks, especially if you’ve been around long enough to have originally marketed to gym users rather than supermarket shoppers, and have had to adapt your product and/or marketing to reflect this.

Saving sweet wrappers to help those with dementia

I read about socially responsibility endeavours all of the time, most that revolve around limiting climate change or addressing the needs of those in disaster zones.

This morning, I read the refreshing news that Nestlé UK & Ireland has created something called a ‘reminiscence pack’ that includes packaging from its vast archive of confectionery products, to help trigger happy recollections among those with dementia or memory problems.

“Even something as simple as an old sweet wrapper can bring back vivid memories from a happy time,” said Alison Cook of the Alzheimer’s Society. “This activity helps carers and loved ones to engage with people with dementia in a positive way, and has the potential to improve the quality of life for the 800,000 living with dementia in the UK.”

Last year, I saw something similar on TV, where a vintage ‘street’ was created to help sufferers of dementia remember how things were when they were younger.

The cynics may see this as a strange sort of marketing, but I can’t help but see the good in this; that some of our fondest memories are forged from the things that excited us when we were children: a finger of fudge, the plastic letters at the end of a tube of Smarties, the crumbling chocolate when you bent a Curly Wurly, or how you had to prise apart sticky Fruit Polos before you could devour them.

In years to come, we may remind our aged population about Angry Birds, Coke Zero and Chai Pods. Let’s start storing the boxes and wrappers now.