Monday, August 26, 2013

British food police lose fight to outlaw rare beefburgers after judge rejects claim they are a health risk

Beefburgers cooked rare can remain on restaurant menus after a judge rejected claims by food watchdogs that they are a health risk.

A wine bar and restaurant chain had been told to stop serving the burgers unless they took certain safety precautions.

The ruling by Westminster City Council, backed by the Food Standards Agency, would have set a precedent across the country.

But the company – London-based Davy’s – appealed against the decision and district judge Elizabeth Roscoe backed its policy.

She said: ‘There is a balance to be struck between ensuring the safety of the public and allowing them the freedom of choice that they would wish and have a right to expect.’

The decision will be welcomed by food critics, such as Charles Campion and Prue Leith, who have lambasted efforts by Britain’s food police to ensure meat is cooked through.

The council wanted Davy’s beef supplier to sear and shave the outside of whole cuts of meat to remove any harmful bugs.

Davy’s argued that its suppliers could be trusted to supply beef that could be safely eaten.

But Westminster council’s food safety chief James Armitage warned of a health risk.

He said: ‘There is an emerging trend of eating beef mince raw or rare in all sorts of premises. Most of them don’t have the appropriate controls in place.

‘This is a ticking timebomb. Somewhere, someone is going to go down with E.coli O157 and there could be a very nasty  outbreak. We are not saying burgers should not be eaten rare  or medium – merely that they should be prepared in a way that makes them as safe as practicably possible.’


Let's stop swallowing this barmy health pill hype

There it sits, glistening like a jewel inside a glass bottle. The miracle supplement. The dietary aid that will change your life. The health boost, the wonder pill, elixir of youth, hope in a jar.

All available now at a shop or chemist near you, part of a rapidly growing health supplements industry which makes around £385 million a year in the UK.

All of it aimed at making pampered people in the First World look and feel better about themselves — but does any of it work?

Take a moment to peruse the gilded shelves of gobbledygook and bluster in a health store. Absorb the quasi-medical hocus-pocus that has somehow become an acceptable, High Street standard.

All those pills, balms and tinctures of dubious provenance, sold with the promise of making you sleep, breathe, move, digest, expel, dispel, pee, see or just be a little bit better. All now as mainstream as the syrup of figs and calamine lotion that were the cure-alls of my youth.

How did this happen?

There are infusions to help you lose weight. Pills to safeguard something called ‘your nutritional intake’. Detox kits. Stuff that promises to ‘maintain the normal function of joints and cartilage’. Synthetic multivitamins. And a product in Holland & Barrett that purports to ‘protect your cells from oxidative stress’.

Excuse me but isn’t that .... rust?

Anyway, all of it is part of the merry-go-round of dietary supplements, beloved by many, worshipped by those who rattle with pills from dawn to dusk.

Yet a report from the highly-respected consumer group Which? has accused some big brand health supplement companies of making exaggerated and misleading claims for their products.

Oof, hardly a shock there. Who doesn’t big up their merchandise in one way or another?

Yet manufacturers who make claims about products which do less than they say they do to improve consumers’ health are, I believe, the lowest of the low. They gull people into imagining they are doing something positive for their health, when nothing of the sort is taking place.

Brands such as Seven Seas, Bioglan, Optima, some Boots own brand products, Vitabiotics and Bimuno were all censured. Their products are supposed to give benefits to heart, joints and digestion — and they know exactly how to tap into families’ health concerns about these issues.

According to the Which? study, many of their products fail to deliver the promises splashed across the packaging. Some of the health claims are described as ‘unauthorised’ — but  who would authorise  them? God?

A tragic number of consumers seem to think that a celebrity endorsement by Carol Vorderman (Bioglan Red Krill Oil and Probiotics; Sambucol Immuno Forte supplements), Jennifer Aniston (Smartwater ‘health’ drink), or Lulu (low cholesterol spreads) is all that they need.

When it comes to dietary supplements, consumers become like Alice in Wonderland faced with the Eat Me and Drink Me labels. They want to do what they are told. They want to believe, they really do.
The childlike tendency to have faith in the mumbo-jumbo on the back of bottles and packets of pills can be a powerful one, especially where matters of health and beauty are concerned.

We are all vulnerable, in need of comfort and encouragement. And even in the face of scepticism, many still want to believe. The Which? report may debunk many health manufacturers’ claims, but will it make any difference?

Probably not. Take the case of glucosamine, the most common, most popular non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement taken to boost joint health. Repeat clinical trials prove that there is no advantage to using it — yet millions still do.

They might say, why not? It is not doing me any harm and a great number of doctor-prescribed medicines can be toxic, with terrible side-effects.

There are just too many opportunities for exploitation. In a world where food fraud is a weekly occurrence — English strawberries that are actually from Poland, chickens that aren’t really organic, mozzarella cheese that’s never seen buffalo milk — don’t you think the same thing will happen in the murkier world of health shops?

Pills and potions are impossible for the layman to assess properly.

RATHER than doping up on synthetic vitamins or fish oil capsules harvested from fish reared on farms and fed only chemicals, why not have the real thing instead?

A couple of oranges instead of a vitamin C tablet, effervescent or not. Lots of fresh spinach, ginger, turmeric and garlic instead of vague substitutes offering no proper solutions to health problems or wellbeing.

I can’t help but think that an old-fashioned approach — natural foods and a healthy lifestyle — is probably a far better medicine that all this modish, pseudo-scientific health store rubbish. An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Truer now than it ever was.


1 comment:

Wireless.Phil said...

Years ago in the USA, they suggested that food shops warn people about the risks and that is all, same with over-easy eggs.

No law, so most of us ordered what we wanted.