Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 1 June 2005



Blades, M. (2005), "Editorial", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 35 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/nfs.2005.01735caa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Like the rest of the population I watched with horror the news programmes between Christmas and the New Year, which showed the tsunami and the devastation that it wrought.

One of my friends was on holiday in Phuket so that was an added worry and it was wonderful to hear that she and her husband were safe.

So whatever one writes about food seems somewhat trivial in the face of such horrors and loss of life.

But food and nutrition is vital to life and there seems to be so much happening on the nutrition front.

There is the continuing concern about obesity and the bookstalls seem to be full of books about weight loss. Also the magazine racks have magazines with articles, which promise various ways to lose weight. This helps people to keep to their New Year's resolutions to lose some of the weight that they have gained over the Christmas period.

There are all sorts of books on weight loss and soon I look forward to seeing a recipe book which focuses on the Glycaemic Index, that I have been working on with Antony Worrall Thompson (a celebrity chef) and Jane Suthering (a home economist) in the book shops.

The Food Standards Agency have been looking at helping people to understand what compiles a healthy diet and what is in food by looking at food labels. Various mechanisms have been examined to do this and are still being looked at with consumers.

They aim to try to help consumers make healthier food choices about the food they buy. Having looked at the background information required to undertake the calculations it has been an interesting exercise. The food labelling concepts are based on calculating points as allocated from factors which may have less positive health benefits such as energy values, saturated fat, nom-milk extrinsic sugars and sodium per 100€g. These points are added together.

Points are also allocated for the amount of calcium, iron, fruit and vegetables in a food and also omega 3 fatty acids found per 100€g of food. These nutrients are the ones, which are considered to have positive benefits and are added together and then subtracted from the points for the former group of nutrients.

Obtaining the information on some of the nutritional content of foods such as calcium, iron and omega 3 fatty acids can be challenging as often they are not available on food packs. Indeed some food packs contain no nutritional information whatsoever as they do not need to provide it unless the manufacturer makes a nutritional claim.

The calculations are reasonably straightforward to do but take a great deal of attention to detail as one extracts information on the nutritional content of foods from food labels and data bases. Therefore I have found that the calculations are quite time consuming to do. Much more detail can be found at http://www.food.gov.u/foodlabelling/researchandreports/signpostingreport.

I have spent some considerable time teaching nutrition to all sorts of groups of people including caterers. These courses on nutrition include helping people to read food labels and I find that this is an area of great difficulty for many people. Therefore while there may be a few initial difficulties as the public get used to a new way of presenting information on food labels anything that helps to ease the interpretation of information on diet will be of help. Also manufacturers may wrestle with the problems of obtaining full nutritional information of their products to put on food labels and this may mean they have to do more chemical analysis.

While the whole aspect of this initiative on food labelling will take time to be fully evaluated and the format to be used may not yet be decided, anything, which helps the public to choose a healthier diet is to be applauded.

Mabel Blades

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