Food Research Collaboration – Sugar


Couple of papers on sugar from the Food Research Collaboration:


New report outlines the principles of healthy and sustainable diets


03 June 2015 – published here.

Global Food Security, an alliance of the UK’s main public funders of food related research, has published a report highlighting 8 principles of healthy and sustainable eating patterns and concluded that pro-environmental diets were clearly compatible with healthy diets.

The eight principles are:

  • eat a varied balanced diet,
  • eat more plant based foods,
  • value your food and don’t waste it,
  • choose sustainable fish,
  • moderate your meat intake,
  • include milk and dairy products and where possible plant based alternatives,
  • drink tap water
  • eat fewer foods high in fat sugar and salt.

Support for the NHS – linking health and food


Extract from Guardian article citing US and UK health professionals writing in support of the NHS:

“As senior public health professionals, we must draw attention to the damage that the coalition government’s policies have done to the health of the British people. First, it placed “responsibility deals” with producers of junk food and alcohol at the centre of its public-health strategy. As its own evaluation confirms, these have achieved almost nothing. Second, it has delayed action on issues such as reducing the salt hidden in food, which researchers have linked to 6,000 additional deaths.

Third, it has failed to implement minimum unit pricing for alcohol, again in the face of research evidence that this would save thousands of lives. Fourth, its austerity policies can be linked to a reversal in the long-term downward trend in suicides, which have increased most where welfare cuts have been most severe. These policies have also contributed directly to a marked increase in food poverty, with growing numbers dependent on food banks. Fifth, it has failed to address the already poor health of British children. The areas where the government has made progress, such as standardised packaging for cigarettes and antimicrobial resistance, show what could have been done.

This reluctance to act, whether due to ideology, closeness to corporate interests or fears of being accused of “nanny-state tactics”, has been damaging to health and has led to many thousands of unnecessary deaths. Whatever government is elected this week, we call upon it to put evidence before ideology. The people’s health must come first.”

Event write up – Community Food Practices’ Impact on Health Inequalities (Engage Strathclyde)



Community Food Practices’ Impact on Health Inequalities, Thursday 7th May, 12-4pm, Strathclyde University Collins Suite, Richmond Street, Glasgow

Access to healthy diet is considered central to addressing health inequality. This session will bring key stakeholders groups together to consider the barriers to a healthy diet and social enterprise approaches to reducing these barriers. This event is intended for social enterprises engaged with food as a means of tackling health inequalities. It may also interest policy makers in the field of social enterprise, community food policy or health inequality.

Organisers are keen to map a research agenda relevant to social enterprises and to engage participants in developing research projects to meet those needs.


12pm Registration and Lunch

12.45pm Welcome and outline for afternoon

1pm Professor Barry Quinn, University of Ulster, LOCFOOD Project

1.25pm Amber Cully, Drumchapel L.I.F.E, Flat Pack Meals

1.50pm Speaker Q&A

2pm Break out groups

2.45pm Refreshment break

3pm Feedback session

3.45pm Closing remarks and identification of potential research projects



Dr Andrea Tonner and Dr Juliet Wilson (Strathclyde Uni)

  • important to get academics, practitioners and policy makers together and on the same page
  • academic research is lagging behind what’s happening on the ground in this areas
  • social enterprises working on community food have grown exponentially in response to health inequalities but the academic knowledge is behind and not supportive at present
  • also part of a bigger political agenda – who should actually be providing these kinds of services?
  • key to assess impact, and how best to do this
  • looking at what role social enterprises do/should have in helping to reduce health inequalities?
  • session a response to the above – want to form a research agenda that’s beneficial and complementary to the work happening on the ground.

Prof. Barry Quinn – Ulster University – The LOCFOOD Project (key speaker)

  • EU funded project across 13 partners in 19 countries, including Northern Ireland to look at “local food as an engine for local business”
  • small food enterprises make a valuable contribution to rural and periphery areas – project involved some SEs but mostly focused on SMEs
  • aim to improve regional policies supporting food SMEs in rural areas
  • mostly looking at high end, added value products
  • activities included mapping, surveys, study visits, identification of good practice, stakeholder engagement – focus on innovation and support required
  • general pictures is that food SMEs are passionate and innovative but often a mismatch between support available and uptake of support, sales and marketing a challenge – trust issues and lack of time also barriers for SMEs in terms of networking and collaboration
  • recommendations to policy makers – help with promotion and marketing campaigns, education of health and environmental benefits, supportive market environment needed for development of local food (less red tape, bureaucracy) e.g. procurement initiatives – open routes to market, tailored support programmes, mentoring and business support, encourage network development, representative trade association specifically for small producers (reduce isolation)
  • outputs of project – report to ARD committee, working with NI DARD on a rural development programme, drafting a local authority local food policy with potential actions for NI councils
  • created a good practice guide with examples of successful policy initiatives and company practices, examples below

Jarina, Slovenia – “the actor of local food self sufficiency” – not for profit cooperative connecting 100 plus producers with schools and public sector organisations.

SEED Food and Fisheries programme, NI – local council collaboration – see and

vicTualia, Sweden – platform for local food, developing entrepreneurship, sales and marketing and networking

Contest Agora, Bulgaria – promoting local food through tourism and a national competition

  • key success factors for food SMEs – working towards a range of co-benefits, value network working, admin and funding support from govt, value trade name, identify and engage key stakeholders, build relationships and facilitate new initiatives – a joined up approach

Amber Cully – Drumchapel LifeFlat Pack Meals (key speaker)

Drumchapel LIFE is a health and well-being charity, Flat Pack meals is one of their services – funding through CCA and Big Lottery. Initially wanted to set up as a social enterprise and have a shop front, focus on sustainable jobs for vulnerable women in the area – but shop costs prohibitive so now volunteer led with one staff member from DL.

They purchase and pack goods to sell in Drumchapel area- meal bags and soup bags (salad, bread and pizza bags coming soon). Low income families able to purchase fresh healthy food to cook themselves rather than relying on frozen or fast food.

Working with Neilston/Locavore farm to source veg when possible – want to source more local/sustainable produce if possible. Environmentally conscious as well as bringing health and social benefits through project. but logistics can be difficult with sourcing. e.g. talking to local community gardens but they can’t commit to producing on that scale.

Pilot with Drumchapel High school – supplying food bags and helping to cook with them – running twice a year – education and increasing customer base.

Volunteer recruitment good but transport a challenge – tight budget but breaking even, looking to diversify and find more funding to grow in future.

Some other thoughts from session:

People often don’t want to take the risk with new food or recipes cos if it goes wrong they don’t have the money to buy something else – flat pack meals have simple recipes which are clearly described – helps take away this fear

Distribution and logistical support holding back from of the community retailers present at the event – need to work better with stakeholders and other retailers to tackle this – similar to some of NI problems

Tension between developing social enterprise and maintaining a low income stream so the people project aiming to help are not excluded


Interesting event!

‘Sugar in the Dock’ – write up from Edinburgh Science Festival event


#EdSciFest – Sugar in the Dock – event details

Like it or lump it, sugar plays a large part in our modern diets and, with our consumption at an all-time high, what can we do to fight our addiction? BBC Scotland Heath Correspondent Eleanor Bradford will lead a discussion featuring nutrition expert Prof Geraldine McNeill of the University of Aberdeen, Pete Ritchie of sustainable food group Nourish Scotland and Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow examining the role of sugar in our lives. Delve into its past, present and future, investigate how much we are consuming and consider alternatives.

I attended the above discussion event last week and found it extremely interesting, especially in light of my recent ‘Lent’ challenge to stop eating processed sugar (6 days out of 7).

A collection of my (fairly jumbled up) notes from the speakers’ presentations below:

  • Book to look up -‘Pure, White & Deadly’ by John Yudkin (published 1972 – still relevant today!!)
  • Sugar companies are playing the same game as tobacco companies…
  • Sugar (sucrose) is cheap – kilo for 59p – corresponds with disparity in obesity levels between children from less deprived areas and those from more deprived areas.
  • A lot of processing involved in extracting sugar from sugar cane…
  • WHO are promoting ‘free sugars‘ but advocating that these only make up less than 10% of calorie intake (5% even better = 6 tbsps sugar per day..). UK govt. target is 11% but even this is difficult to achieve – we’d need to halve national UK sugar consumption.
  • Resource – BBC programme – The Truth About Sugar also article here.
  • Sugar and disease – complex relationship – proven to cause dental diseases, saturated fat is proven to link to heart disease but sugar not as clear cut, also contributes to obesity but this is more driven by fat and total calorie intake.
  • Dental care costs the NHS as much as reproductive health and maternity care!!
  • Sugar is potentially guilty by association – marketing and increasing calorie intakes are the real villains (?) – sugar is needed for life – energy! Treating fat as evil has led to increase in sugar rich projects and now sugar is the new bad guy.
  • Sattar Naveed – ” a calorie is a calorie” however it comes and that’s what (generally speaking) causes obesity. If you eat 12 bags of grapes – you will gain weight.
  • Idea that what is provided is eaten – need to change the availability/prevalence of sugary products.
  • Concept of re-training peoples’ taste buds – try something 15 times…
  • We wouldn’t give sugar to our animals – why are we systematically feeding ourselves something we wouldn’t give to our pets?
  • The current food system makes humans more like farm animals than wild animals – by not allowing ourselves choice.
  • A sugar tax would work (proven in other countries) but need to make access to fruit and veg easier if this was to be enforced.
  • People talk about addiction to sugar but perhaps we are accustomed rather than addicted – therefore can change.
  • 5% sugar target would, interestingly, take us back to around 1820 – which is a big statement and probably unattainable in this generation – but perhaps it is a good, stark message to the food industry that this is the direction to head in.
  • People with low self esteem vulnerable to ‘bad’ diets…
  • Cultural/social pressures influence sugar consumption – we’re capable of ‘being two different people’ in different settings, where there are different expectations.
  • Public services see vending machines as a source of revenue (even water provision) – need a big change here – money is a huge factor. Need leadership, public support and political will to change. Perhaps an element of personal responsibility too?
  • Fruit and veg is not ubiquitous – whereas sugar is!
  • Fact to finish on –> a latte has approx. 250 calories, whereas a cuppa has approx. 10!!

The diet dilemma


Balancing health and sustainability and obesity’s global toll. 

Interesting article and stats – originally posted here.


The debate regarding the make-up of a sustainable diet is likely to rage on into 2015. A recent paper published in the journal Current Opinion in Food Science neatly describes the headaches involved in aligning health and environmental agendas.

“Healthy eating recommendations call for increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. However, fruit and vegetables are crops with a high ratio of losses in production and retailing, and the category is also causing an especially large share of household food waste,” writes Jessica Aschemann-Witzel from the University of Aarhus, in Denmark.

 She has a point. But this doesn’t mean that health and sustainability are mutually exclusive. Instead, Aschemann-Witzel, an associate professor in the university’s centre for research on customer relations in the food sector, argues for “understanding and acknowledging the trade-offs that consumers might encounter or perceive as important in order to avoid that policies pursuing one goal are negatively impacting the other, and instead ensure they are mutually supportive”. An ability to combine health and environmental attributes, for example through meta-labels (see page 23 Feb Footprint), could help kill two birds with one stone. As would eating “just the right amount” of food.

Weight of the World

Not everyone is eating just the right amount, currently at least. Researchersv at the McKinsey Global Institute have calculated that more than 2.1 billion people are overweight or obese (that’s almost one  in three people). Obesity is also responsible for 5% of all deaths worldwide. And it’s quite a strain on the public purse too: the global economic impact is $2 trillion, more than alcoholism ($1.4 trillion) and only a shade less than smoking and armed violence, war and terrorism (both $2.1 trillion). McKinsey focused on the UK in its detailed report, showing that deploying 44 interventions – 95% of which are “low-cost, high impact” – could return 20% of overweight Brits to normal weight. Some of the most effective tactics include portion control and the reformulation of products.