‘Shocking’ levels of salt, fat and sugar found in takeaways

A Local Government study into two of the UK’s most popular takeaway dishes has revealed ‘shocking’ levels of salt, sugar, colourings and fat, as well as bogus meat. The study revealed that a single portion of sweet and sour chicken with fried rice contained 119% of an average person’s Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of salt and 75% GDA of sugar.

A similar analysis found that a single portion of the popular Indian dish, chicken tikka masala with pilau rice, included 92% GDA of salt and 116% GDA of saturated fat. The study, which examined food from over 220 takeaways throughout the UK, also revealed illegally high quantities of several food colourings. A spokesman for the Food Standards agency explained that if the meals were pre-packaged they would need to contain a health warning which advised customers that they included the food colourings.

In some test purchases the takeaway was advised that the customer suffered from a nut allergy. Despite this, 20% of these purchases contained either peanuts or almonds. In a small number of cases it was found that turkey had been used instead of chicken. A spokesman for the Local Government Regulation Board claimed that, whilst everybody knows that takeaway food isn’t particularly healthy, it is completely unnecessary for one meal to contain so much sugar, fat and salt.

He claimed that there is no defence for using illegally high levels of food colouring and that the practice of substituting a cheaper meat is totally unacceptable. There are a number of ways that takeaways can make their food healthier. These include using natural colourings, reducing salt and using low fat oils. Such measures shouldn’t compromise taste whilst sponsoring such an approach will often attract those customers who are more health conscious.

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Cookery courses offered at London social enterprise bistro

PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced that a new social enterprise will open on the site of a former station in Tooley Street, South London. The aim of the project is to encourage disadvantaged people to develop marketable skills and find employment through a new cookery school and restaurant.

The social enterprise bistro, named ‘Brigade’, will include a private dining event business and wine bar and will be operated by De Vere Venues, with support from the Beyond Food Foundation.

The intention is that it will offer vulnerable sectors of society, including those that have experienced homelessness, the opportunity to take part in cookery courses as well as an apprenticeship programme. The training and kitchens will be overseen by chef Simon Boyle, with the venue expected to be open to the public by the autumn.

The redevelopment of the former Fire Station has been funded by PwC alongside partners; De Vere Venues and the Beyond Food Foundation, with backing from the Big Issue. PwC has pledged to provide active support to the social enterprise centre with volunteer time and also financial support such as investing the profits from the bistro into local services.

A spokesman for PwC explained that the firm’s intention is to develop of hub for social enterprise, which combines expertise from the private, public and third sectors, as well as a model for social enterprise partnerships and business. Simon Boyle also explained that the project is something that everybody involved is really passionate about.

It will provide an opportunity to develop a business that will support disadvantaged people by helping them build a career in the food industry. Simon was also keen to point out that the quality of the food will be exceptional – the aim is to create brilliant chefs.

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Wiltshire brewers open cookery school

Family run brewers Wadworth have launched their own cookery school in a effort to improve the standard of food across its entire business. The new ten-station facility has been built behind the visitor complex at the Wadworth brewery in Devizes, Wiltshire.

Cookery courses will be offered to chefs and other kitchen staff that work in any of the brewery’s 248 pubs (204 tenanted and 44 managed). Scott Ferguson, Wadworth’s catering development manager, will be responsible the day to day operations of the cookery school. He explained that the school’s overall objective is to improve the confidence of staff. Ferguson believes that many of the chefs that work in pubs feel isolated and that offering them the chance to meet up and discuss common issues will be really helpful.

The brewery also intends to open the facilities to members of the public, offering cooking courses and corporate team building events. Ferguson believes that cookery is a fantastic way of bringing people together. Wadworth’s sales and marketing director, Paul Sullivan explained that a number of their pubs could improve the standard of their food. Food is a key factor in the success of modern day pubs and Sullivan believes that it is as important as other factors such as a great atmosphere, quality drinks and great customer service.

The cookery school has cost more £100k to set up, but Sullivan is confident that it will prove a valuable investment. Sullivan claims that the brewery needs to aim high and aim to raise the quality of food in all of its pubs. He believes that whilst a number of pubs already offer excellent food, there are also a number that could improve. Wadworth is focusing on their pubs as opposed to offering specific training to the chefs. The plan is to develop knowledge of cookery and food across the business at all levels.

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Reduce food cravings with a protein-rich breakfast

A researcher at the University of Missouri has discovered that eating a healthy, high protein breakfast can help to reduce feelings of hunger throughout the day.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers also discovered that a high protein breakfast can reduce the brain signals that control reward driven eating behaviour and food motivation. Heather Leidy, who is assistant professor at the University’s Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, believes that whilst most people understand the importance of eating breakfast, many still don’t ensure it’s a priority. She believes that the research provides further evidence that eating breakfast is an effective way of regulating food intake and controlling appetite.

The research was focused on teenagers that skip breakfast. The reason for this was two-fold, firstly it has been estimated that around 60% teenagers in the USA skip breakfast daily, and secondly skipping breakfast has been closely linked with over-eating (particularly at night), unhealthy snacking, obesity and weight gain. During a three week period, the teenagers either continued to miss breakfast or eat a five hundred calorie breakfast containing either, milk and cereal (containing standard amounts of protein), or, Belgium waffles, with yogurt and syrup (containing higher levels of protein).

Each week the volunteers completed questionnaires that were designed to measure their satiety and appetite. They also received a weekly brain scan to measure brain activation in specific areas related to reward and food motivation. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was found that both types of breakfast led to increased levels of satiety and reduced hunger throughout the morning. The fMRI scan results confirmed that brain activities in the areas controlling reward and food motivation were reduced prior to lunchtime when breakfast was eaten. It was also found that, compared to the breakfast with standard levels of protein, the protein rich breakfast resulted in greater changes in satiety, appetite and reward driven eating behaviour.

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Cookery Courses: Chocolate Courses

Chocolate has been a hugely popular ingredient in the Western diet for many centuries. Ever since European explorers first discovered its delights in their journeys to South America, westerners have continued to experiment with chocolate or cocoa as an ingredient which, when sweetened, produces hundreds of fantastic desserts.

Many cookery schools now offer chocolate cookery courses but in our view the following are amongst the best.

Bristol, The Chocolate Tart

The Chocolate Tart opened four years ago and has recently taught its one thousandth student. The school is based in a delightful courtyard setting in the village of Congresbury near Bristol and is a must for chocolate lovers. Students are greeted by the wonderful aroma of cocoa and are welcomed into a kitchen packed with chocolate making equipment.

The school’s classic workshop is a great introduction and will take you through the art of creating hand-rolled fresh cream truffles. You will also learn to enrobe, mold homemade fondant inside homemade chocolate and embellish edible patterns onto chocolate Florentines using transfer sheets.

The workshop also features advice on packaging with a wide variety of boxes, sachets, ballotins, stickers and ribbons available to give your hard work a really professional finish.

London, Leiths School of Food and Wine

Leiths is an internationally renowned cookery school with first class reputation for excellent tuition in a friendly environment. The school aims to create an atmosphere where students can develop a passion and lasting love of food and wine.

The school’s chocolate pudding workshop is ideal for enthusiastic amateurs who are passionate about chocolate and are looking for some new recipes and inspiration. The cookery course will feature techniques such as making mousse, a rich chocolate cake and meringues as well as presentation ideas.

Each student will work on an individual station and will be able to choose from a variety of different cake tins and molds. The course also features a guide on the various different ways in which students can give a professional finish to their creations.

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Farmers welcome supermarket’s sustainability plan

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has welcomed the commitment from food retailer Sainsbury’s to double the amount of food it sources from Britain. The commitment forms part of the supermarket’s Sustainability Plan, which also includes an undertaking to ensure that all meat, game, poultry, dairy products and eggs are sourced from certified suppliers that adhere to strict independent welfare standards.

Tom Hind, who is the NFU’s director of corporate affairs claims that the commitment should be applauded, arguing that Sainsbury’s has taken a positive and bold step for farming and food. Hind believes that the move recognises the excellent quality, levels of environmental protection and standards of production that British farmers meet on a daily basis.

Hind claims that the additional demand would be a welcome boost to British growers and farmers at against the backdrop of huge pressures on investments and rising feed, energy and fuel prices throughout the sector. Hind also explained that it’s important for the NFU to review the detailed plan to make sure that the commitments made by Sainsbury’s are reliable and deliver real sustainability for the nation’s agriculture. The NFU are also keen to ensure that plans to drive efficiency are developed in partnership with farmers thus enabling long term relationships to develop alongside profitable and stable prices.

These measures should help farmers met the key investment challenges. The four key areas addressed in Sainsbury’s’ Sustainability Plan are; Colleagues – which includes the aim to ensure that twenty thousand employees achieve twenty years of service. Communities – including the intention to create fifty thousand new jobs within the UK.

Operational Excellence – which includes the aim to reduce carbon emissions by sixty five per cent relative and thirty per cent absolute, compared to 2005. Healthy and Sustainable Products – which is the section that relates most closely to farmers and local producers. The NFU intends to meet with Sainsbury’s to consider the timing and implementation of the plan, as well as the opportunities for British growers and farmers.

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Rotherham fire station set to host cookery courses

Fire-fighters at a fire station in Rotherham have allowed a local chef from the town’s catering college to use their kitchen to run a series of cookery courses aimed at local residents.

The cooking courses, which will take place in the Fitzwilliam Road station, every Thursday evening for a period of six weeks, are designed to teach people how to cook delicious healthy meals within the constraints of a tight budget.

The courses will last for two hours and will feature instructions on how to prepare and cook a different family meal each week.

Rotherham’s Metropolitan Borough Council is funding the initiative whilst the supermarket giant Asda has kindly agreed to donate all the required ingredients.

Those residents that attend the cookery courses also will be offered advice and suggestions, where required about how to go about gaining employment within the food industry. In addition, fire fighters at the fire station have agreed to offer participants advice about how they can protect their homes from the dangers of fire.

A spokesman explained that it is hoped that the scheme will give the people of Rotherham the skills required to cook healthy nutritional dishes within the confines of a budget and, as a result, help them to live a much healthier lifestyle.

It is hoped that the additional fire safety advice will also help to ensure that the participants feel more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.

A spokesman for Asda explained that the company was proud to be part of the cookery course and is excited to be supporting such a great scheme aimed at teaching local residents how to cook nutritional and healthy food.

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Jamie snoops on restaurant staff

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has installed CCTV in his restaurant kitchens in a move designed to help ensure that diners receive better quality food.

Jamie recently admitted that he doesn’t have time to visit each of his restaurants and, as a result, the globe trotting chef has resorted to modern technology to give him the capability of inspecting every plate of food that leaves his restaurant kitchens.

The system allows him to closely inspect individual dishes and identify those chefs who aren’t serving the expected quality of food.

The system is the first of its kind and will be installed in Jamie’s restaurants throughout the country. Jamie explained that he has great chefs in all of his restaurants and that the CCTV cameras are a really efficient way of ensuring that quality is maintained.

Security firms have now installed the system in nineteen of Jamie’s twenty three kitchens. The cameras operate at all times with the full knowledge of staff working in the kitchens. Jamie is able to view the live feeds whichever country he’s in, at the click of his mouse.

The footage will also be regularly reviewed by staff at Jamie’s London HQ. His team of executive chefs will conduct quality checks, at random, on his behalf.

Staff have suggested that working in the kitchens will be like being a contestant on Big Brother. Although the cameras will mean that staff will be under observation throughout the day, many are unsurprised at the move, given Jamie’s reputation for high standards.

A spokesperson for MRFS, the CCTV firm who installed the cameras explained that each time a dish leaves the kitchen it will streamed live, in high definition. Jamie and members of his team will then be able to monitor that the food meets the required standard – it could influence the way in which kitchens approach the topic of quality control.

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Celebrity chefs could do more to reduce food waste

A new study has revealed that the cookery styles encouraged by high profile chefs are unlikely to reduce the nation’s huge amount of food waste generated by British households.

Dr David Evans, a member of the University of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute, claims that the desire to eat a wide range of meals coupled with the drive to prepare more dishes from scratch can result in more food waste.

Dr Evans studied nineteen Manchester households during the course of eight months in an attempt to understand why the nation throws away over eight million tonnes of food waste each year.

Dr Evans watched people prepare, cook and shop for food and also asked them to discuss the contents of their cupboards, fridges and freezers. He claims that whilst consumers are often blamed for lacking the ability to cook or not caring enough about wasting food, he found nothing in his study to support this view.

The research suggests that people don’t generally need cookery courses but do sometimes find it hard to make use of leftovers. This is particularly true when the family contains are fussy eaters who often prefer established recipes to more improvised meals.

Dr Evans argues that the current volumes of household food waste should be considered as the result of people negotiating the contradictory and complex demands of everyday life. He believes that the pressure from celebrity chefs to eat and cook in certain ways inevitably leads to a greater risk of food waste.

Most food advocated by celebrity chefs is perishable and therefore should be eaten fairly quickly. Our unpredictable leisure schedules and working hours make it more difficult to make best use of the food in our cupboards and fridges.

Dr Evans believes that those with influence including celebrity chefs should recognize the issues and consider how to make it desirable or at least socially acceptable for people to use frozen vegetables or eat the same dish for several consecutive nights.

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Young Carers Benefit From Cookery Courses

Young carers from the South Tyneside region have spent the summer holidays acquiring valuable skills at cookery courses arranged by the Cooking for Life project.

Young carers are often required to take on many of the roles traditionally played by parents. These can included completing the weekly shop and preparing meals for the entire family.

Shopping and planning meals on a tight budget can be very challenging so the cooking courses offered to members of South Tyneside’s Young Carers Scheme have been really helpful.

In addition to teaching the youngsters how to cook, the cookery courses also focused on explaining how to use the kitchen equipment, the importance of a balanced diet and also how to stay safe.

Interaction with the group and social skills were also an important aspect of the project. The youngsters were able to relax with friends and enjoy the meal that they had helped to prepare.

Members of the Cooking for Life project have been working with youngsters in the area for the last ten years. A spokeswoman for the project, Joyce Greely explained that the North-East is unfortunately one of the least healthy places in the UK, with rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease rapidly increasing.

By the time that they leave home, many young people lack basic food knowledge and are unable to prepare simple balanced meals themselves. Many fail to recognise the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Without additional help, this lack of basic skills and unhealthy lifestyle is likely to be passed onto their children. It is for this reason that the Cooking for Life project was established. It aims to teach young people and their families how to prepare great tasting meals that are also cheap, healthy and nourishing.

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