I must start with a disclaimer - Channel 5 is not exactly prescribed viewing in my house. For those not familiar with the UK's fifth terrestrial channel, this is the one more appreciated by the organs located between viewers' legs than by the ones located between their ears.
Ch5 launched with The Spice Girls and is forever associated with Topless Darts (although that was actually on the now-defunct L!ve TV). Quality can be judged from the incident when they broadcast a football match from Norway in a blizzard, but hardly anyone phoned in to complain as everyone thought it was just the usual bad reception.
So when settling down to watch "50 Shocking Facts About Your Food", my expectations weren't high. But the competition was "Goodfellas", and I've seen my joint second favourite film often enough.
I knew at least something - in some cases quite a lot - about most of these 50 "shocking facts". I don't necessarily agree with all of Channel 5's comments and I've tabulated my own. See how many shocking facts you were aware of and how many of them you believe. But be warned - gratuitous material is a hallmark of Channel 5 - so don't read this post on a full stomach.
|#||Fact (or fiction?)||My thoughts|
Beer bellies. They don't exist. A glass of beer contains fewer calories than a glass of wine or milk and whoever heard of a milk belly? Stomach fat is due to excess calorie intake. Some come from the alcohol, but many more come from the food you snack on when consuming the appetite stimulant, beer. So it's pork scratchings belly and curry belly, not beer belly.
With 170 calories in a typical pint, drinking six beers a day adds 1,020 calories without the snacks that go with it - almost half an average daily male requirement and the equivalent of a large meal. So they're not beer bellies, just bellies resulting from drinking beer and eating pork scratchings.
Supermarket "healthy" ranges. Some of them are less healthy than their equivalent ordinary products. A study by the Consumers' Association (Which?) revealed high levels of sugar in many "healthy meals". And customers were often charged higher prices for packets that contained fewer calories only because they contained smaller portions.
There's a line of argument that says smaller portions are good for consumers. After all, we criticise burger outlets for doing the exact opposite with their "triple-burgers". But the best way to ensure healthy eating is to cook fresh ingredients yourself. Then you know exactly what you are eating.
The kitchen sink. Researchers at the University of Arizona have found that the average kitchen sink contains more bacteria than the average domestic toilet seat. So if you eat food that's been dropped into the sink, you might as well eat food after dropping it onto the toilet seat.
Luckily, most of the bacteria we come across at home are not too serious or we'd probably all be dead. Good food hygiene should always be practised. I use coloured chopping boards at home and rinse my hands in-between each food group I touch, not just at the start and end of cooking.
Salami. European law allows salami to contain horse and donkey meat, so long as it is listed on the food label.
I didn't know that. Maybe Shergar didn't end up in burgers after all, but in pepperoni pizzas.
Milk. It's the wonder food, full of calcium and vitamins. Promoted by celebrities, it stops you getting brittle bones. Actually, a study by the US National Dairy Council has shown that excess milk consumption by post-menopausal women can lead to osteoporosis, with twice average rate of bone loss in those drinking 3 or more glasses per day.
I certainly didn't know that. Luckily I will never be a post-menopausal woman.
Breakfast cereals. If you consume a bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran or Nestlé Golden Grahams in the morning, you might as well drink a bowl of sea water instead. A bowl of either cereal contains more salt than four 25g packets of salted peanuts - over 1 gram, or 1/6th of recommended daily intake. Excess salt can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke.
Cereals don't really have much flavour anyway and we don't expect it. So why not just much cornflakes or rice crispies instead of these high-salt products and save the salt allowance for meals later in the day where it can really be used effectively as a flavour enhancer.
White powder. No, not that white powder, but aspartame. Amongst over 10,000 complaints received by the Food & Drug Administration are headaches, dizziness, muscular weakness and hair loss. The current maximum recommended daily allowance is equivalent to 14 cans of low calorie soda per day, but some people suffer serious effects at far less than this level of intake.
My parents never allowed Joel and I to consume aspartame when we were children. It looks like some individuals have a particular problem, whereas most don't. But I'm no expert. I think it's better to train your palate to expect less sugar.
Spinach. The ultimate strength food, as promoted for years by Popeye the Sailor Man. Contains lots of iron, but unfortunately not in a form that is readily absorbable into the bloodstream. So no use for making you strong... unless you drink fruit juice with it, because sufficient quantities of vitamin C can quadruple the body's absorption of iron.
Yes, there are many foods containing useful elements that are difficult to absorb. I wouldn't recommend washing down too much orange juice, though, as this can cause... but that's coming later.
Exercise for the obese. There are loads of exercise programmes aimed at the obese and plenty of people getting rich on the proceeds. But exercise is not needed to lose weight. Just chewing sugar-free gum can shift 50 kg per annum. But beware of chewing gum containing sorbitol. This ferments to form a powerful laxative. If consumed in excessive quantities you could drop more weight than you bargained for.
Now it's getting silly. Losing weight is a matter of adjusting your diet to make a permanent change in what you eat and how much, combined with exercise to help the body metabolise the food and burn off calories. Chewing gum is not a sensible way to lose weight.
Chicken. Don't chickens look lovely, wandering about the farmyard for 20 weeks, pecking and clucking? Factory farmed chickens are reared in just 6 weeks, packed into broiler houses holding up to 40,000 birds each in a space the size of a piece of A4 paper, with artificial lighting to stop them sleeping. Some collapse from broken legs under their own weight, some die of dehydration and some are pecked to death.
So long as consumers want low priced food, suppliers will provide it. It's easy to attack breeders and supermarkets, but consumers have to change as well. There are signs of change - more people buying free range eggs, fairtrade produce and organic food. But there's a long way to go before all our food is produced ethically.
McDonald's salads. Produced as a healthy alternative to burgers and fries. Part of a major re-imaging of the McDonald's brand after years of bad PR. But try comparing crispy chicken Caesar salad & low fat dressing with Big Mac and double fries. Which meal contains the most salt? Wrong. It's the chicken salad, with 3.5g of salt against 3.4g in the burger and double fries. Either way, over half the recommended daily allowance of 6g.
This didn't surprise me - I already knew about this. There are also health issues over bacteria in salads, but that's a whole other horror story.
Liver. Years ago liver was put forward as the best possible source of iron. Wrong. Tests have shown that, weight for weight, parsley is a better source of iron than pig's liver. The iron and calcium in parsley are more absorbable than in liver.
Liver is, however, an excellent source of the enzyme catalase. This breaks down hydrogen peroxide, a harmful by-product that can build up in the body. And you only need to eat liver a few times a year to get the benefits.
Soya. Full of beans and makes you full of beans. High in protein, rich in vitamins, a great low-fat substitute for meat that can reduce coronary heart disease. Danger! Danger! Pregnant women who consume excess soya could be breeding... (Ch5's words, not mine) "ladyboys". Soya contains chemicals that mimic oestrogen, leading to sexual dysfunction in adult males and can affect the male reproductive organs.
There is definitely truth in this, but they've overplayed it based on evidence from some animal studies. You'd have to eat an awful lot of soya to risk anything more than a lowering of sperm count and there's plenty of evidence to suggest other causes of that phenomenon including stress, obesity and alcohol abuse.
Restaurant meals. Paying a lot of money for a meal in a good restaurant should guarantee a well-cooked and healthy dinner. Think again. A Food Standards Agency survey of 1,000 independent caterers in 2002 found that 53% of catering staff didn't wash their hands before preparing food and an amazing 39% of staff didn't even wash their hands after visiting the toilet.
A disingenuous linking of "independent caterers" with "good restaurant". Very few top restaurants have food hygiene problems, although I've worked in at least one that did. I've seen a chef in my local pub touch food without washing her hands after stroking a dog. I've told my dad, but he still eats in there from time to time.
Coffee. Too much coffee is bad for you. We all know that. But few of us know that 10g of caffeine is enough to kill the average person. The good news is that this is the equivalent of 293 cups of average high street serving quality. The even better news for men is that 1-3 cups a day can increase the mobility of sperm and hence improve male fertility.
Definitely scraping the barrel with this one. Male potency is boosted by drinking coffee rather than beer, as the former keeps you awake and the latter puts you to sleep. Zzzzzzz.....
Potato. Since Walter Raleigh brought back the potato from the New World (or is this a myth?) the spud has been regarded as a reliable, harmless, favourite vegetable. But the potato can turn into... a killer! The danger lies in the green sprouting tubers, which contain deadly toxic glycoalkaloids. These can cause headaches, diarrhoea, cramps and ultimately coma and death.
The risk is very low for anyone eating potatoes in normal quantities and in most cases the danger can be spotted from the green colour of the affected area. Cooking also reduces the risk.
Tap water. The aluminium in tap water can kill us. Aluminium is added to clarify the water and make it look better. But in excess quantities, aluminium can cause Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia. A 2003 survey by Scottish Water found 39 examples of water exceeding safe levels. Tough luck, Scots. 87% of all sample failures were found north of the border.
The last serious error in adding aluminium to water in the UK was in Camelford in Cornwall in 1988. Residents are still being monitored today as a result of the accident.
The Atkins Diet. This high-fat low-carb diet was once all the rage. But many people who took it up have subsequently dropped out, not least because of the difficulty finding good food you can eat on Atkins. Worse still is the phenomenon of 'Atkins breath'. This side effect, causing the breath to smell of cheese all the time, is due to ketosis - the metabolism of body fat leading to production of ketones.
I will not endorse fad diets such as Atkins, GI, etc. People who are genuinely overweight need to change their eating patterns to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of their consumption and to take exercise. As I'm not likely to go out with anyone on the Atkins Diet, I'm not likely to be affected by Atkins Breath.
Fat-free crisps. Sounds like a healthy option. But these can make you "poo your pants". Some of these are cooked in olestra, an indigestible fat substitute that passes straight through your body. So it doesn't make you fat, but there have been 20,000 complaints of flatulence, bloody stools, cramps, diarrhoea and incontinence.
You just can't win, can you?
Tomato ketchup. It doesn't have the best reputation (retro, poor quality, chav food), but in common with all tomato products it contains the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene, which is proven to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer in men, especially those over 70 years old.
Evidence suggests that tomatoes in the diet can help reduce the risk of various cancers, heart disease and other ailments. It is believed that tomato is one of the factors behind the relative longevity of Mediterranean people. I still think fresh is best.
Scotch eggs. Take one look at a Scotch egg and you would assume that it was just about the last thing to eat on a diet. A hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and breadcrumb sounds highly calorific. So it's surprising to discover that a Scotch egg contains fewer calories than a muffin. It's the dieter's dream.
Not strictly true, actually. Check it on the web. A Scotch egg has 140 calories and a simple English muffin contains 120. But a large Sarah Lee blueberry muffin contains 430 calories, so I guess the point is made. Don't judge books by their covers. And don't eat 4 Scotch eggs, either!
Frogs legs. We all know that the French eat things that the rest of us don't. Snails and frogs' legs, for a start. But we should be much more concerned about frogs' legs than about les escargots. Farming frogs is banned in Europe, so France imports animals caught by Indonesians late at night, using torchlight and nets. According to Compassion in World Farming, the frogs are often beheaded while still conscious and some subsequently take an hour to die.
Every carnivore should ask about the source of their meat products and how the animals were treated during their rearing or catching. Consumers have an important part to play in ensuring ethical food.
Fruit juice. Prescribed medication is good for you, of course, and so is fruit juice which counts towards your 5-a-day healthy input. But put the two together and you could be in trouble. Over 200 medications have been found to interact with fruit juice. The worst offender is the combination of warfarin (an anti-coagulant) with cranberry juice, which has been reported to lead to internal bleeding in some cases. Issues have also been raised over immuno-suppressants and grapefruit juice causing kidney failure.
The benefits of fruit juice far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of us. So keep drinking the juice in sensible quantities but do make sure you read the advisory notes that come with your medical prescriptions and don't just throw them away with the box. Most risks will be identified in these notes.
The fridge. We simply don't clean our fridges often enough. Just because they are cold, we assume that bacteria won't multiply in them. This often leads to gastroenteritis and can lead to more life-threatening conditions. Remember that 1 bug can multiply into 1 million bugs in just 7 hours.
Fridges should operate at 0-5ºC. Above this, food bacteria multiply rapidly. But even at the lower temperatures, bacteria reproduce. So just because your fridge is cold, it doesn't mean you shouldn't clean it regularly.
Airplane water. You expect to be well looked after on an airline flight, especially if you are in first or business class. But both the European Environmental Protection Agency and its US equivalent have found dangerous levels of coliform bacteria in water on airplanes. In a US airport survey in 2005, the water onboard 15% of all planes was found to have been contaminated, the bacteria probably originating from human faeces.
Drink the bottled water. If you are in first class, order a glass of champagne and a bottle of water.
Shopping trolleys. The humble shopping trolley is a major source of bacterial cross-contamination. Supermarket customers and staff infect their hands through sneezing or not washing after visiting the toilet and then transfer bacteria via shopping trolley handles to the next person and to their food purchases. The "Michael Jackson approach" (wearing a glove) is recommended.
I'm glad that's what they meant by the "Michael Jackson approach". There are no obvious practical solutions to this - you can hardly scrub your trolley before shopping. Best to assume that outer food packaging is contaminated and behave accordingly when unpacking your food.
Fruit and vegetables. One of the reasons we now recommend 5 portions per day, while our grandparents managed on 1 portion, is that fruit and vegetables are far less nutritious now than they were in the 1940s. This is a result of many factors including plant hybridisation, modern farming methods and long transportation times (i.e. global produce replacing local produce). Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research has found that to obtain the vitamin A in a 1940 orange you would need to eat 8 oranges today. And for the minerals in a 1940 tomato you would now need to eat 10. Bad news for elderly people.
Enjoy fruits and vegetables from around the world, but whenever possible try to eat the best locally grown organic fruit and veg you can find. And complain to your local supermarket about their worst offending products. Contrary to popular belief, supermarkets do listen to their customers.
Sushi. It must be good for us. The Japanese live very long. But beware the sushi. Lots of parasites are to be found on raw fish, including roundworms, tapeworms and flukes. These give rise to stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea. Even worse than the seafood fillings of sushi is the rice itself. Cooked rice, if not properly refrigerated at the correct temperature, grows the dangerous bacterium bacillus cereus. Anyone who is pregnant or suffering from an immune deficiency should avoid eating sushi.
Keeping cooked rice too long is certainly dangerous, as is keeping any starch or protein material - they will all grow bacillus cereus. One thing's for sure - countries where raw food is a key part of the cuisine tend to have better food hygiene standards than we have in the UK. Would you eat steak tartare in London?
Supermarket bagged salads. The "pillow pack" salad is a relative newcomer to the UK food market and in the early days there were health scares over unwashed contents. But now they are washed everything is fine. Think again! These salads are rinsed in a chlorine solution 20 times stronger than the chlorinated water in swimming pools. Modified air in the packs contains chloramines, which are known causes of eye and respiratory irritation. It also destroys vitamins C and E, thereby reducing the health benefits of eating salads in the first place. Some vegetables are kept in modified environments for up to 9 months and then sold as fresh.
It's a difficult issue. Few of us have time to buy fresh mixed salad leaves, wash them all and allow them to dry thoroughly in hygienic environments before eating them. I think once again it comes down to consumer pressure on supermarkets to promote the development of sensible, healthy alternative food technologies.
Bottled water. It puts you in mind of natural mountain springs, clear flowing streams and a healthy, safe and unadulterated alternative to tap water. Well, some bottled water contains all sorts of contaminants, but that's not the point of this horror story. This is about absolutely pure, clean, healthy bottled water. The problem is that it contains little or no fluoride, unlike our tap water which is fluoridated by law. And some kids drink no water other than bottled - leading to an increase in tooth decay amongst the young.
This story resonates with me, as part of the first generation of Brits to reach the end of their teens with virtually no dental problems. If we can put fluorine into tap water, I can't see why we can't legislate to add fluorine to bottled water. The dental health effects of UK fluoridation are massive and indisputable.
Probiotics. The new wonder food supplement, full of "friendly bacteria" that give you health and energy. Think again. The friendly bacteria have far fewer proven health benefits than are implied by the adverts. Probiotics can certainly help people suffering from certain conditions, but offer almost no benefits at all for the healthy. The only area where there is a probable benefit is in bowel health. But probiotics certainly don't improve vitality, contrary to the message put out by so many of the adverts.
I never use them, but I'm well prepared to believe that this is correct. The adverts always looked too good to be true.
The lettuce leaf. What do models eat? Everyone knows that the super-thin waifs stay that way on a diet of lettuce. Well, only if they wash them very thoroughly. Lettuce leaves can make you fat. While growing, they are sprayed with pesticides that contain growth promoting additives than some doctors believe can make humans put on weight. And pound for pound, lettuce can contain more calories than creamy avocado.
Scraping the barrel again. How many pounds weight of lettuce do you eat at a sitting? And you buy market lettuce and don't wash it thoroughly? If you did that you'd get more calories from the caterpillars you ate than from the pesticides.
Buy one, get one free (BOGOF). Sounds like a great offer to encourage consumers to buy healthy supermarket food at discount prices. Sorry, wrong again. Unhealthy food is twice as likely to feature in such promotions as healthy food. So they are flogging us stuff that makes you fat.
I think this is rubbish. The offers in my supermarket are usually products such as king prawns and chicken breasts - hardly unhealthy foods. What the programme missed is that these offers are frequently made by supermarkets at the expense of their food producers.
White powder. No, not that white powder, but... Hang on, didn't we do this one already? No, this isn't aspartame again. This time it's an addictive (shock horror) white powder called... sugar. US research has shown that binging on sugar releases opioids and dopamine in the brain - in a similar way to heroin and amphetamines - leading to dependency. For those who binge on sugar regularly, giving up the sugar intake can involve cold turkey similar to the experience of getting off nicotine.
Another example of dramatic effect. Over-consumption of sugar in most people is a compulsive behavioural problem rather than an addiction, with sugar providing "rewards" not obtained by other behaviours. My dad gave up smoking and also stopped eating refined sugar. Only one of these experiences involved cold turkey.
Organic free-range chicken. This must be the healthiest type of chicken you could possibly eat. No. They are three times more likely to give us bacteria than battery farmed chickens because they are allowed to wander around and make contact with sources of infection.
Keep eating the organic free-range chicken. Wash your hands and cook the chicken properly.
Barbecued meat. Oh for the open life on the range, the healthy life of the American cowboy and the Australian rancher. Gathering round the barbecue at dusk for a healthy meal al fresco. Sorry. Bad news for you I'm afraid. Animal fats dropping onto hot coals on the barbecue create carcinogenic chemicals which can then enter your food via the smoke and flames.
Scraping the barrel again. How often do you cook meat on an open coal barbecue? I suspect you are more at risk from breathing in the street than from eating BBQ meat a couple of times a year.
Pork sausages. Yummy pork meat (assuming you're not Jewish or Muslim). But what, exactly, do we mean by "meat"? Many pork sausages - especially those marked "economy" - are packed full of rubbish, and that's before you consider the ingredients other than "pork meat". By law, pork sausage meat can comprise 25% connective tissue (ligaments, cartilage, tendons, etc.) and 30% meat fat. Worse still, the fat in economy sausages is often from the pig's head, rather than from the body.
So buy good quality pork sausages - there are plenty around. But expect to pay a price consistent with whole meat cuts or prime mince. After all, you get what you pay for.
Cling film. One of the great culinary inventions of the last century. Wrap all your cooked food in it and keep the food fresh. But beware of wrapping foods with high proportions of fat. Cooked and raw meats, dairy products and other fatty foods should not be allowed to come into contact with cling film. Much of this household wrap contains plasticizers that leech into oily foods. When you buy cheese and ham in a deli, you'll find they are wrapped in paper. You should use greaseproof paper for all your fatty foods.
Yes, we've had plenty of warnings of this in Britain and there are warning notes on packets of cling film. Once again, you'd need to be doing this excessively to expose yourself to serious risk.
New-born calves. Ah! How sweet, frolicking about in the fields. Not for long, they're not. The lining of the 4th stomach of slaughtered milk fed calves is the source of rennet. This is the substance used to coagulate milk to make cheese.
There are plenty of alternatives to calves rennet and some cheese such as ricotta does not use rennet at all. This is a barbaric practice that is unjustifiable in today's world.
Supermarket ready-meals. Didn't we do this one earlier? Yes, but this is a new horror. Microwaveable meals contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, which mean trans fatty acids. These are linked to increases in bad cholesterols and increased risk of heart disease. Labelling for trans fats is not compulsory.
There is evidence that these risks are present but the cause is not well understood. Eating moderate quantities of fat as part of a balanced diet should be fine for most people.
Dr. Gillian McKeith. Presenter of Channel4's "You Are What You Eat" and author of the most borrowed non-fiction library book in 2005/06. Britain's most respected professional nutritionalist... until an investigative journalist discovered that her credentials are fake. Her doctorate was purchased from an online "college". Challenged by Ch5 to prove scientifically that her ideas are correct, she has yet to respond. Gillian McKeith has been shown to be a fraud.
The internet is full of articles debunking Gillian McKeith, who has now dropped the "Dr". There's a comprehensive debunk in The Guardian dating back as far as 2004, under the heading of "Bad Science". I noticed last weekend that her "You Are What You Eat" DVDs are now on cheap offer at the checkout in LIDL. Oh, how are the mighty fallen!
Foie gras. We've already discussed the passion of our French friends for inhumanely harvested frogs' legs. But that tale is nothing compared with the story of foie gras. Called "the delicacy of despair", foie gras (fatty liver) is produced by keeping geese and ducks in tiny cages and force feeding them until their livers engorge to as much as 10 times their original size. Production has now been banned in many countries and consumption bans have been introduced in California and in Chicago.
Offering foie gras is effectively mandatory for top restaurants. I've eaten foie gras once and in my working future I may need to prepare it in order to pursue my career in the catering industry. But I am totally opposed to the production of this disgraceful product, I would never allow it on a menu of my own and will do everything I can to remove it from the world's menus.
Foreign objects. No - not a French onion-seller's beret or a Japanese sushi bowl. We are talking unwanted additions to your food. Like the two dead baby mice found in a loaf of sliced bread recently. Each year, some 2,000 foreign objects are reported in British food. Objects listed along with the mice include a rat, a spider, glass and a condom. Channel 5 thought it amusing to explain that the latter was unused.
My dad has admitted to me that when he was a student he worked in a fruit canning plant in Essex where bored fellow students on the night shift sent foreign objects down the production line to each other, some of which were unfortunately never found and retrieved at the far end and wound up in the tin cans instead.
Supermarket value. We've already had five gripes at supermarkets - healthy ranges, trolleys, bagged salads, BOGOFs and ready meals. But the worst offence is poor value for money. Apparently only 26 pence in each pound we spend in supermarkets is spent on food. And over 16 pence in each pound is spent on the packaging of food items. This adds up to an incredible £15 billion per annum, or £470 per annum for each person in Britain, simply thrown away.
A germ of truth, packaged in throw-away rubbish. The maths doesn't seem right (it makes the UK population 32 million by my maths). And who says we don't get value for the non-food items we buy? More important are the issues of destruction of local shops and packaging waste generally.
Red Bull. "It gives you wings". It's the functional drink for clubbers, containing everything you need to keep you awake, mobile and hydrated while you dance the night away. Unless, of course, you live in France or Denmark where it is banned. It contains the amino-acid taurine, which the German company describes in glowing terms. They forget to mention that just 3 cans can be enough to significantly lower blood pressure. Although legal in the UK and Spain, the authorities have been unable to develop 'safety in use' criteria for the product. So it has no maximum recommended maximum daily use figure.
I don't like it, so it's not a problem to me personally. One can of Red Bull contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and it also contains a lot of sugar (or aspartame in the sugar-free version). We've already discussed caffeine, sugar and aspartame in other entries above.
Fruit. Fruit is our friend. It counts towards our recommended "five a day". Fruit is a good source of vitamin C and low in calories. But eat too much fruit and you'll end up with dental problems. Fresh fruits, dried fruits and fruit juices contain acid and sugar in quantities sufficient to damage your teeth. The worst offenders for sugar are, in descending order, banana, guava, grape, apricot, apple and orange. Dried fruits are especially bad as they often have refined sugar added.
Actually, this is not completely true. The sugars in whole fruit are unlikely to cause tooth decay. Once sugars are released into juice the damage can be caused. But the benefits of these products greatly outweigh the risks. You just need to be sensible, try to drink fruit juice with meals and brush your teeth regularly.
Radioactive sea food. Seafood is a wonderful part of our diet, but beware the seafood in the UK. Much of the British shellfish industry is geographically close to Sellafield nuclear power station and reprocessing plant. As a result, our molluscs contain high levels of plutonium and much of the UK's production is at risk of being banned under new EU legislation on safe permitted limits. The saving grace is that much of our British production ends up on the plates of the Dutch, French and Spanish.
There are certainly problems with radiation locally in Cumbria and radioactivity from Sellafield has been found much further afield. But you are far more likely to die from biological contaminants than from radioactive contamination. You should source seafood carefully, handle it carefully and enjoy it.
Super size me. Most of us are familiar with Morgan Spurlock's Oscar-nominated documentary about the effects of living on a McDonald's diet. The real man behind the story was Chris Hughes, of Haverfordwest in Wales, who ate burger and chips daily - not for a month, but for an incredible 25 years. He topped up this diet with bacon rolls, crisps, cola and fish and chips. Eventually he ended up in Accident & Emergency, with cirrhosis of the liver. Luckily he survived an emergency operation and has now changed his diet to eat much more healthily.
A lot of questions have been raised about the effects shown in Morgan Spurlock's film. But it's Hollywood entertainment so what would you expect - understatement? It must be pretty obvious to everyone that eating a diet like that is very bad for you. Some people will survive, some will become obese and some will die. Eat well, enjoy your food and live.
Vintage red wine. Given a choice between a 2006 fruity young thing or a 1990 Chateau Margaux, most of us wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter. But drinking a vintage red wine could result in variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Although the practice was banned in 1997, bulls' blood was used to clarify red wines prior to this date. And some of that bulls' blood was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as "mad cow disease", which can lead to CJD in humans. Some infected wine, in bottles labelled VDQS, may have entered the UK market.
Sound like the programme makers know even less about wine than I do. Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) is the classification of wines below AOC but above table plonk. So there's not much chance that you'd be opening a bottle of this wine dated from before 1997. And even less chance that you'd drink much of the contents if you did.
Kids' diets. Here we go. Drum roll. Advertising break. Look away now if you are of a nervous disposition. The diets of many of our children are now so bad that they lead to constipation. So, that's not so serious, is it? Well, we're not talking 2-3 days between plops. We're not even talking a week of anal retention. We are talking... up to six weeks between visits to the loo. So teenagers are so constipated that they are vomiting up their own faeces (I did warn you, didn't I?). Actually, it's not really faeces, but proto-faeces, or partially digested food, from the upper part of the intestines. But it looks and smells like poo. Researchers in the US have also discovered that children's diets are leading to aggressive and anti-social behaviour.
I reckon I'd be aggressive and anti-social if I couldn't crap for six weeks and was vomiting the stuff up - wouldn't you? I'm not going to comment on this one other than to say that a few minutes researching on the internet suggest that such cases are very unusual. The issue was originally raised on Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's School Dinners", so I guess it's just one TV show going for an exaggeration of another TV show's exaggeration. Oh well, such is life. We all watch the stuff, so we must all share the blame. For what it's worth, I'm very regular.
Well, that's it guys. Anyone for lunch?