Thursday, May 31, 2007

Burgers revival on British school menus

Food freaks forced to back down

England's school food watchdog has denied it is watering down its healthy food guidelines after many pupils opted out of school dinners. Seven months after healthy food guidelines were introduced, the School Food Trust is revising the standards. Canteens will now be allowed to offer manufactured meat products like pies, sausages and healthier burgers four times a fortnight instead of just once. The trust said it was responding to calls for more clarity and flexibility.

New standards were brought into force in September 2006 after TV chef Jamie Oliver revealed the poor nutritional standards of meals on offer in school canteens. But a number of reports and surveys, including one for the BBC, suggest that fewer pupils have been taking school meals.

A trust spokeswoman said the 2006 standards were always going to be refined and clarified, but denied the move was a result of pupils opting for the chip shop instead of the school canteen. "We undertook consultations with cooks, schools and manufacturers and decided clarifications of the standards were needed. "Having listened to people we understand how difficult it is to get from having chips and Turkey Twizzlers every day to not having burgers and chips at all. "There's still a ban on lower quality economy burgers - schools have to serve a good quality one and it might be grilled."

She added: "It's about being informed about making these choices and understanding that having burgers every day is not a choice that is normal. "This is a response to help and encourage children make healthy choices, not because swarms of them are going to the chip shop."

The changes to the meat products restrictions mean canteens will be able, no more than once a fortnight, to offer pupils one item from each of the following four groups:
  • Burgers, hamburgers, chopped meat and corned meat
  • Sausages, sausage meat, link, chipolata and luncheon meat
  • Meat pies, meat puddings, Melton Mowbray pie, game pie, Scottish pie, pasty, pasties, bridie and sausage rolls
  • Any other shaped or coated meat product

Other changes mean kitchens can now serve breadsticks and crackers - as long as they are served with fruit, vegetables or dairy foods. They were previously banned along with crisps, salted nuts and other flavoured snacks, but the trust thought they might encourage pupils to eat more fruit, vegetables and dairy food.

School kitchens are still being encouraged to serve more fruit, vegetables, fresh meat and fish, and deep-fried food should not be served more than twice a week. A small snapshot survey of secondary schools for the trust suggested the take-up of the new healthier, school meals has remained roughly stable. Some 30% of the 74 secondary schools that responded said they had seen a reduction in the numbers of pupils having school meals, while a further 30% said they had seen an increase. The rest said things had not changed.

The survey suggests the results were better in primary schools. A poll of 206 for the trust found half had seen no change, a third had seen an increase and just under a fifth had seen a decrease.


Big advance in cornea surgery

Australian surgeons have restored a man's vision by performing a procedure that eliminates the need for a complete transplant of the cornea. The procedure causes fewer complications and restores eyesight faster than a cornea transplant, doctors say. Rasik Vajpayee, head of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital's corneal unit in Melbourne, who performed the surgery, said it was an exciting development. "This new treatment has the potential to help sufferers of endothelial corneal blindness to see again, offering them the ability to lead an independent life," Professor Vajpayee said.

Diseases of the cornea -- the clear surface at the front of the eye that lets it focus -- can lead to blurred vision or blindness. Previously, doctors would make a large incision in the eye, remove the diseased or damaged cornea and replace it with a donated cornea, using sutures. Although the procedure has a 90 per cent success rate, it can take 12 months for the eye to heal and patients can experience complications, including infection and distorted vision. Some require corrective surgery if the replacement cornea becomes loose.

In the new procedure, which rarely requires sutures, surgeons make a small incision in the eye and remove only the diseased layer of the cornea, which is then replaced with a layer of healthy donor tissue. "Previously we were replacing the whole cornea, which has about five layers," Professor Vajpayee said. "But there is a serious shortage of corneas around the world. This procedure could allow us to treat two or three patients with tissue from the same donor."

Professor Vajpayee said surgeons had performed the procedure on hundreds of patients in the US, with great success. "The complete transplant uses up to 20 sutures, which all have to be removed," he said. "This has better outcomes and patients recover faster."

David Wall's vision has improved daily since a fortnight ago, when he became the first Australian to undergo the procedure. The 75-year-old's eyesight had deteriorated significantly over the past year. "Eventually I couldn't see anything out of my left eye, it was just a blur," Mr Wall said. "It was affecting my balance and I had to concentrate really hard on the ground when I walked, so I didn't fall." Mr Wall said he could already see objects and read large letters. "It's getting better each day -- I'm very happy with it."



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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