This blog posting represents the views of the author, David Fosberry. Those opinions may change over time. They do not constitute an expert legal or financial opinion.

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What's good for you is bad for you, and vice versa.

Posted on 13th April 2022

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I feel thoroughly disheartened after reading this article on Womans World. Apparently, whte rice is better for us than brown rice, because brown rice contains the wrong kind of fibre/fiber (roughage to us Brits).

My partner, Sheryl has been trying valiantly to make our diet healthier, and that included a short-lived experiment with brown rice (which we gave up because we simply didn't like the taste).

The matter of which kind of rice is healthier is only one of a huge list of food and drink items where books and the Internet are full of contradictory advice. That list includes:

  • Coffee, where the advice ranges from drinking none to drinking up to 5 cups per day (apparently coffee is good for the heart, blood pressure and the prevention of cancer);
  • Meat, where advice ranges from eating none, to only low fat meat (ostrich, venison, etc.), or eating only white meat, all the while bearing in mind that you must get enough vitamin B12 (I supplement my B12 intake with marmite);
  • Butter, which was demonised because it contains lots of saturated fats, but it now seems that these are a special kind that are good for us;
  • Wine and other alcoholic drinks, where some advise avoiding it completely, and other advice suggests one, or in some cases two, glasses per day;
  • Fruit juice, where some advise that it is healthy (in moderation), while others suggest no juice, but only whole fruit, and the avoidance of fruit such as bananas, mangos, etc.;
  • For diabetics, carbohydrates such as sugar, flour, bread, potatoes and sweet-corn/maize.

The advice is changing constantly, and it is impossible to keep up.

My advice? Everything in moderation.

Poisonous Fruit At My Supermarket!

Posted on 1st April 2021

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I read an interesting story on the BBC, which put something into perspective for me.

The article is about medlars, an ancient type of fruit that is almost impossible to find nowadays. "Medieval Europeans were fanatical about [medlars] that could only be eaten rotten."

As a teenager, I tasted medlars. A relative had a tree in their garden; they had been allowed to rot on the tree. I copied my father by squeezing the pulp out of the tough skin. The flesh was rather like eating stewed or baked apple.

A couple of years ago I was amazed to find medlars (called Mispel in German) at my local Edeka supermarket, and bought some. They were not ripe, and are not worth eating until they are rotten.

What I didn't know is that if medlars are eaten before becoming rotten, they can make you violently ill: they cause diarrhoea. But if you put them in a crate of sawdust or straw and forget about them for several weeks, they gradually darken and their hard, astringent flesh softens to the consistency of a baked apple; or you can just let them rot on the tree.

I can see that selling such fruit is problematic for supermarkets. Medlars are not robust enough to transport when ripe enough to eat. What concerns me is that the Edeka supermarket sold them without any health warning or instructions on how to ripen them. Sadly, I have not seen medlars in any shops since.

Brits may not want US GMO crops, but will be getting them anyway.

Posted on 12th January 2021

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I wrote in June 2020 (here) about the risks of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops that the US is trying to foist on the world.

Brexit has only just fully come into effect, freeing the UK from EU food safety regulations, but already the British government is getting ready to change the UK regulations to allow the growing in Britain, and the import from the US, of such crops, as reported here by the BBC.

It didn't take them long! I am sure that the Trump administration applied their habitual blackmail to speed the deregulation process.

I am very glad that I live in the EU, and continue to be protected by their comprehensive food safety rules.

If you live in the UK, your best hope is that the new regulations there will at least insist that GMO products are clearly labeled as such, so that you can at least make your own choice (although I suspect that they will not, again due to pressure from the US).

We do not want US GMO crops!

Posted on 21st June 2020

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I have previously written about GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops and US attempts to foist them on UK and other consumers (here, here, here and here).

If you think I am making a fuss about nothing, I recommend that you read this report on "Collective Evolution". The report is based on information provided by an ex-Monsanto employee, and is primarily about GMO potatoes, but the risks (although different in some details) apply to other GMO crops. The article makes the point well enough that I don't need to elaborate. If you are not concerned after reading it, then you are probably beyond help.

Although EU food safety regulations provide some protections, the situation in the UK after Brexit will be much worse, once the USA gets the trade deal that it wants with Britain.

The USA tries to bully Thailand over food safety

Posted on 22nd November 2019

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This recent story on The Guardian shows that the USA has not changed its approach.

The government of Thailand is in the process of banning three pesticides with known or suspected harmful side-effects. In doing so, they join dozens of countries who have already banned "chlorpyrifos, an insecticide made popular by Dow Chemical that is known to damage babies’ brains; Syngenta’s paraquat, a herbicide scientists say causes the nervous system disease known as Parkinson’s that has been banned in Europe since 2007; and Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide, which is linked to cancer and other health problems".

The ban of these pesticides will block not only the pesticides themselves, but also food imports (e.g. from the USA) that are polluted with residue of these chemicals. "In the United States, pesticide residues are so common in domestic food supplies that a Food and Drug Administration report issued in September found more than 84% of domestic fruits, 53% of vegetables, and 42% of grains sold to consumers carried pesticide residues.

Of course, the USA, as always, is trying to pressure Thailand to not ban the pesticides.

America is clearly not content with poisoning only its own population, but wants to be free to poison those of other nations. The USA has an abominable track record on food safety, and on environmental protection in general, all in the name of profits, and is trying to persuade everyone else to adopt the same lax and irresponsible standards.

The US government tried very hard to get the EU to relax their food quality and labeling standards, without success. They then got very excited about the opportunities that would be created by Brexit, and Donald Trump has made it very clear that only a Brexit deal that does not include the inclusion of the UK in the EU trading block, and the food standards that come with that, would allow a trade deal between the UK and the US, because they need markets for their food exports laced with pesticide residues, and those based on GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) without labels to identify their GMO nature (as described here).

Luckily, Thailand is not about to be bullied by Uncle Sam; Britain, however, seems likely to give the Yanks what they want. It is a sad state of affairs when a country like Thailand has more backbone and protection of their citizens than the UK. As I have said before, very many protections (product and food safety, employment protection, and human rights) that Britain currently has, come as a side effect of EU membership, rather than from British political will, and all of these protections and rights are at risk in the event of Brexit.

Americans Want To Poison The Brits!

Posted on 29th January 2019

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No-one should be surprised by this story on the BBC, which is an inevitable result of Brexit.

A lobby group, made up of agriculture and pharmaceutical firms, want the food safety regulations in the UK to be made more like those in the USA. Once the UK leaves the EU, Brits will be able to set their own standards for food and drug safety, and this group is pressing for more relaxed standards, like those in the USA. This means hormone-fed beef, GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) food, antibiotics in food, lack of clear labeling of food (i.e. the labels will not tell you about hormone or GMO content), and a easier and faster process for approval of drugs.

The US already tried to agree these changes with the EU in the past, without success. There was quite a row, almost leading to a trade war. Now that the UK is leaving the EU, they are having another go, and will probably succeed, since Britain will not be in such a strong negotiating position on their own, and needs to agree trading terms with many countries in a hurry, once Brexit is complete.

It is obvious from the facts that Britain puts the health, welfare and rights of its population at a lower priority than the EU does. The only reason why Brits are as well protected as they are right now, is because of regulations created by the EU, so we should all expect that to change after Brexit.

Almost certainly, UK regulations on food and drug safety will be relaxed, although maybe not quite as much as the Yanks would like, and the British population will all be be eating all sorts of potentially hazardous food, and being prescribed drugs that are not thoroughly tested, without even knowing.

I am so glad that I live in Germany, where food and drug safety, and labeling rules are strict, due to EU regulations, and won't be eating any of the poisonous garbage that the USA wants to fob off on the UK.

If you live in the UK, now might be a good time to write to your MP.

Why The Offensive Stuffed Cow?

Posted on 21st August 2016

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I really do not understand the pizza restaurant described in this BBC report. They hung a stuffed cow (a real cow stuffed by a taxidermist) from the ceiling, above the tables, in their restaurant, which is designed to look like a slaughterhouse with glass walls.

The owners of the restaurant tried vainly to claim the moral high-ground, by claiming that the cow makes diners think about "the realities" of consuming meat, and "true consequence of consuming dairy". I could understand this if the restaurant was a vegan establishment, but, as the new article points out, they serve meat and dairy products, and so are enabling the slaughter of animals to supply meat and dairy items.

Unsurprisingly, visitors and diners are offended, even disgusted, by the display,

What Is Wrong With Our Fruit?

Posted on 21st August 2016

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With every passing year, I become more disappointed with the fruit that I find in the shops. I cannot be the only one.

Doctors, nutritionists and government departments are constantly encouraging us to eat more fruit, because of the health benefits, but the world's fruit breeders, growers, buyers and distributors seem to be actively discouraging me from eating fruit. Many people who know me wrongly believe that I don't like fruit, because I would rather eat no fruit than eat bad fruit.

My complaints and criticisms apply most strongly to apples, which nowadays mostly taste like turnip, rather than apple. There was a time when getting a good and tasty apple was simply a question of buying the right variety (I liked Cox's Orange Pippin, and Russets), but now the choice of species in the shops doesn't seem to include apples with flavour.

I got an insight into why fruit (especially apples) have so little taste, many years ago. I used to live in Marden, in the middle of the Kentish fruit-growing area, and there was a yearly fruit show (the biggest and main fruit show in Kent), with prizes for the best fruit. One year I went to the show, and discovered that the fruit (mostly apples) are judged on size, colour, conformity, and even on the ability to withstand transport; everything except taste. No wonder our fruit tastes of nothing!

Another reason for tasteless fruit is that fruit has become an international business. Fruit is transported all around the world, spending months in refrigerated ships, with the result that some fruit is available all year round (and some people no longer even know when the season is for the fruit they are eating). Fruit which is to be carried in refrigerated ships is picked earlier (is more under-ripe), and it is this earlier harvesting, and to a lesser extent the direct effect of the refrigeration, that destroys the flavour of fruit. There are species of apple which are bred for keeping, where the full flavour doesn't develop until they have been stored for a few months, but instead growers, shippers and shops offer non-keeping varieties such as Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.

The harvesting of fruit too early has some very annoying side-effects. In the case of mangoes, avocados, and sometimes even nectarines and peaches, you can buy fruit which never actually gets ripe: it goes straight from rock-hard and tasteless, to rotten. With avocados, we generally buy two, just to be sure of getting one which is ripe and not rotten.

Recently there has been some discussion on social media about wax being added to apples and other fruit and vegetables. Wax is produced naturally by a number of fruit species (apples, plums, pears, etc.). Some growers and packers apply additional wax to some fruit and veg. to improve keeping, and to make the produce look more attractive to shoppers. Significant amounts of testing have been performed to assure consumers that the wax added is harmless, but this does not mean that the practice of adding the wax has been demonstrated to be safe: adding wax binds dirt and chemical pollutants like pesticides to the skin of the fruit, and makes it much harder to clean the fruit by washing. Additionally, what does not seem to have been tested is whether adding wax has any effect, positive or negative, on flavour, but I find it hard to believe that an extra coating of wax would not make fruit taste worse.

There is also irradiated fruit on the market, and some people are concerned about the effect this may have on flavour. The short answer is that there are not enough studies to determine whether flavour is effected by irradiation, but given that the scientific community now (after a long rear-guard action) admits that irradiation causes chemical changes to food, and that fruit is normally still alive when we buy it and eat it, which sterilisation by radiation changes to some degree, there is almost certainly a negative impact on flavour. Having said that, I think that most of us would choose irradiated fruit over mouldy fruit.

So what are we to do? Well, what I try to do is the following:

  1. Only eat fruit (especially apples) of varieties that you know, and know that you like,
  2. Eat fruit which hasn't been the victim of selective breeding by the factory-producers: pears, plums, apricots and tropical fruit;
  3. Eat fruit that is grown relatively locally (i.e. not shipped halfway around the world), which also means eating fruit only when it is in season where you live - this makes mangoes, my favourite fruit, problematic, as they are never grown locally;
  4. Buy from a seller who knows their fruit: knows how to choose it and care for it - this might be as simple as buying fruit at a different supermarket than where you get your other groceries;
  5. Learn how to keep/store fruit so that it gets ripe, not rotten: some fruit should not be kept with some other fruit, and most fruit should not be kept in the refrigerator;
  6. Eat the fruit when it is ready, rather than when it fits your schedule and meal plan.
We Have All Been Eating GMOs Without Realising!

Posted on 21st June 2015

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This story on Fox New is very worrying.

Similarly to the situation with cheese (described here), it seems that we have all been eating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) without even knowing it. Yet again, big business and our governments have done this without drawing attention to it, so that no public discussion has taken place, and consumers cannot make informed choices. Unsurprisingly, "People are outraged when they find out they are eating experimental products without their consent".

The figures are quite shocking: today, in the USA, the corn (maize) crop is 88% GM, soy is 94% GM, canola is 90% GM, cotton-seed is 90% GM and sugar beet is 95% GM. Don't kid yourself that living in Europe protects you, as US food products and ingredients (e.g. corn-flour) are widely exported.

Thorough testing of GMOs has not been done: according to Martha Grout, M.D., President-Elect of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, "We have not fed a group of humans GMO foods for their whole lives, and another group non-GMO foods for their whole lives, with sufficient numbers to determine statistically whether the two groups are different in their health status or development of illness".

What is especially worrying is that food safety testing is not even designed with the special risks of GMOs in mind. When a new strain of GMO is developed, not only does it need to be tested for safety, it also needs to be regularly retested to ensure that no mutations have occurred. Also, because a common technique for genetically modifying organisms uses plasmids. which are relatively easily passed between organisms even of different species (they can be carried from one species of plant or animal to another by bacteria), each new GMO should be tested to confirm that this will not happen "in the wild". This web-page discusses GMO testing, and concludes that GM food safety testing is currently “woefully inadequate”.

Given that the western world is suffering from so many health issues (increasing incidence of allergies, diabetes, heart and circulatory problems, various kinds of cancer etc.), maybe it is time to take a more serious look at GMO products for possible causes of these ailments; maybe they are not all 100% due to lifestyle and diet.

Is It OK To Eat Cheese?

Posted on 21st June 2015

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A friend sent me the link to this story on io9 about cheese-making. I was shocked: I thought I knew about how cheese was made, having made it myself.

I thought cheese was mostly made with rennet, a by-product of slaughtering calves for veal. For many people this is already morally unacceptable, or at least questionable, but I don't have a problem with it. I like veal, and don't mind that animals are slaughtered to provide my meat. As the article describes, increasing demand for cheese, and decreasing supplies of calves stomachs to provide rennet mean that demand for real rennet outstripped supply a long time ago.

So nowadays, most cheese is made using GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms): bacteria which have been genetically modified to produce rennet. Now, many people have issues with even the existence of GMOs, let alone the consumption of food produced with them. I consider that at least some of the arguments against GMOs have merit.

What to do? I really love cheese. I describe myself as a cheese addict. My ideal dessert is cheese and crackers. Sheryl is also addicted to cheese, and often says that almost all meals are improved by the addition of cheese. The idea of giving up cheese is not going to be given any serious consideration in our household, whatever I think about GMOs. Also, I have never seen labelling on cheese which identifies whether it has been made with GMO-produced rennet or with natural (from calves) rennet, so I can't avoid GMO-produced cheese by reading the labels.

It is interesting, though. There are people around the world protesting about farmers growing GM-crops, and the risks of releasing GMOs into the wild, but it seems that agri-business and our governments slipped this one by us (it has been going on for years - since the 1970s!). Seems like you can't trust anyone, but that shouldn't be news to anyone.

New Analysis of Organic Food Health

Posted on 14th July 2014

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This BBC story doesn't give very clear answers, and highlights that science is a political process, like so much in the modern world.

Some new research has been published, which shows that organic foods are "higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides" than conventional foods. The story refers to the new research as a meta-analysis, meaning that existing research data was re-analysed, rather than being based on new sampling and measurement of food content. There is nothing wrong with meta-analyses, as the original studies tend to be focussed on specific nutrients and pollutants, and only by combining them can broader conclusions about the health benefits of food be drawn.

The conclusions of the new research differ from the last two studies on this subject, mainly due to the existence of new and more comprehensive input data.

Some scientists, however, disagree with the results, including Prof Tom Sanders, head of the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division at King's College London's School of Medicine. He says "This article is misleading because it refers to antioxidants in plants as if they were a class of essential nutrients, which they are not. In terms of macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat), the organic products contained less protein. Other nutrient differences were trivial and well inside the normal range of variation that occurs with different varieties, soil types and variations in weather."

It seems that the progress in nutritional science in recent years has largely passed Prof Sanders by. The claimed health benefits of organic foods are not that they contain more macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat), as he suggests, but that they contain more good micro-nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, for example), and less pesticides and heavy metals. Using Prof Sanders criteria, the most healthy meals would be things like steak and chips (fries), and not many nutritionists would claim that was a super-healthy meal. We could all live on super-concentrated meals like astronaut food and get all the macro-nutrients that we need, and I don't think that we would be healthy as a result.

The new story does contain some sensible stuff, of course, such as the statement that "Ultimately, we all need to eat more fruit and vegetables, regardless of whether they are organic or not, to form part of a healthy balanced diet, which will help protect health."

The real problem that the statements by Prof Sanders and others highlight, however, is the way science works. Just because a study shows evidence of something (whether that a new kind of subatomic particle exists, that global warming is real, or that organic food is more healthy than non-organic food) does not mean that it is automatically accepted into the accepted body of scientific "knowledge". Sometimes vital and ground-breaking research is simply ignored by other scientists. Often scientists disagree, and perform additional research to disprove the disputed findings, but even if the attempts to disprove fail, the disputed research may not be accepted for decades (or longer). The history of science is full of examples of this. Sometimes the root cause is that some scientists simply cannot understand the new research; sometimes because they have vested interests in the new research being wrong.

A good example of politics in science is the fact that Albert Einstein (a very clever scientist and the author of some key scientific work) never accepted quantum mechanics (which is the cornerstone of much modern science and technology), because it is based on the uncertainty principle (first postulated by Heisenberg - that is the original Heisenberg, not the methamphetamine king from Breaking Bad). Einstein said that he couldn't accept "that God throws dice". Science eventually moved on despite objections from Einstein and others, but the development and acceptance of quantum mechanics was delayed by the objections.