Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 1 February 1999



Ashwell, M. (1999), "Editorial", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 99 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/nfs.1999.01799aaa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited


It is with great sadness that we report the death of Dr David Buss, one of our editorial board members. He died after a brave four-month battle with cancer. David's name was synonymous with expertise in nutrition in UK government, having been Head of Nutrition in the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food from 1971 to 1995, serving five different Prime Ministers from Heath to Major. In this role he held responsibility for advising government of all aspects of human nutrition in relation to food and diet, developing and advising on nutrition policies and monitoring their effectiveness. He commanded admiration not only from his colleagues in the civil service but also from his fellow academics across the world. He will be remembered for his amazing breadth of knowledge, his approachability, his love of detail and his dry but kindly sense of humour.

We need only look at the bookshelves of anyone in the world of nutrition science and the food industry to see the three main reference books on nutrition which would not now be there without David's drive and enthusiasm. He served as the joint secretary of the National Food Survey Committee during his whole time at MAFF and ensured that this survey, which has provided national data on food expenditure, consumption and nutrient intakes since the Second World War has survived and flourished and is now the envy of many other countries.

McCance and Widdowson's Composition of Foods was first produced in 1940, but after the fourth edition was produced in 1978 it was David who encouraged MAFF and then The Royal Society of Chemistry to continue the production of this key reference book and its supplements containing the nutritional value of foods ­ much to the delight of all those who relied on the data and not least McCance and Widdowson themselves who had conceived the original idea.

The Manual of Nutrition is the pocket reference book produced by MAFF since 1945 to describe all the important nutrients, their roles in the body, the foods that provide them and the way in which these foods are digested so that the nutrients can be used by the body. David took a major role in updating the three most recent revisions produced during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. This book has always been on the Stationery Office best seller list and only The Highway Code has sold more copies.

During the recent explosion of interest in food and health, these books have been consulted constantly to provide the answers to questions such as "Why do tennis players eat bananas? Are we eating more fibre than we used to? Is mango juice better for you than orange juice?" David was the one person who did not need to use the references ­ he had most of the answers in his head. Apart from these major achievements, David's long service in government also meant that he was a constant contributor to many major reports produced by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy and the Department of Health, including at least three reports on the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease and two reports of dietary reference values.

Outside Britain, David had a huge international reputation and was a well known UK representative in Brussels, at Tripartite government meetings in America and Canada and at FAO/WHO CODEX Committees around the world. An American colleague has commented on his quick and honest response to difficult questions and his talent for expressing views in a respectful manner. David also participated in many European initiatives, mainly related to food composition data. One of his regular colleagues in Europe remembers how he would impart his considerable knowledge in his unique, witty and incisive way.

The world of nutrition will miss David Buss greatly. We are honoured that one of the last articles he wrote was for this journal. "MAFF programme of research in support ofdietary surveys" is the first article in this issue.

Margaret Ashwell

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