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The Spice City Journal | February 26, 2018

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The latest news for your enjoyment.

NHS shake up to herald improvements in hospital food

September 3, 2014 | User

Higher standards will be expected from hospital food in England under new measures announced by the health secretary, says the BBC.

NHS hospitals will be legally obliged to provide better quality and choice – and to promote a healthy diet for both patients and staff. Hospitals will also be ranked on the meals they prepare.

NHS hospitals in Scotland and Wales already have nutritional standards in place.

Despite the proposed changes, Campaign for Better Hospital Food described them as “woefully inadequate” and hard to enforce.

Hospitals will be ranked according to quality and choice of food, whether the menu is approved by a dietitian, the availability of fresh fruit and food between meals, the variety of options at breakfast and the cost of the food provided.

The rankings will be published on the NHS Choices website.

The new standards will require hospitals to provide fish twice a week, seasonal produce, cooked rice, potatoes and vegetables without salt, more fruit as part of desserts, and half of tea and coffee should be Fair Trade.

Patients will be assessed for malnutrition when they are admitted and there will also be a greater responsibility placed on staff to ensure patients are well-fed.

The chairman of charity of Age UK, Dianne Jeffrey, has been working with the Department of Health to produce the new NHS standards for England.

She said meals were an important part of a patient’s recovery. She told the BBC: “When a person is in hospital they are in a very vulnerable state.

It’s very important that the food is attractive, it’s appetising, it’s palatable, it’s nutritious, it meets the cultural and social needs of patients and also meets their clinical needs.”

New allergen laws will cost food industry £200m warns BHA

August 29, 2014 | User

New EU Food Information Regulations being implemented in the UK hospitality and catering industry are set to cost businesses up to £200m a year.

By December 13th every public eating establishment from restaurants and pubs to pop-up festival wagons, cafés, schools, hospitals and prison catering, will have to accurately track, record and communicate if any of the 14 most common foods to cause allergic reactions are contained within their menus.

Around 8bn meals are served to the ‘public’ every year, reports Eat Out Magazine. With up to 2 per cent of people suffering allergies to food – such as nuts, shellfish and dairy – and up to 20 per cent believing they have some kind of food allergy, according to NHS figures, food businesses could face millions of requests for information.

The British Hospitality Association has issued these figures ahead of the deadline and is launching a guidance toolkit to help caterers and restaurants with the process. Unilever has also produced guidance that will make it easier for businesses to help customers when faced with questions about ingredients.

Jackie Grech, policy director for the BHA says: “These new regulations will make it easier for people to get information about which allergies are present in the food they are eating out of home.

“The BHA is launching a toolkit, forum and workshops to help food businesses of all sizes.”

She said the challenge would be greatest for restaurants that frequently change their menu. Pop-up or event caterers and establishments with high staff turnover, as well as smaller establishments may also struggle.

The BHA has calculated it could cost the industry up to £200m a year to implement new sourcing and management processes, adapt menus and websites and regularly brief and train staff.

Meat donations wanted urgently for charity BBQ

August 29, 2014 | User

The charity Action for Children is making a last-minute plea for food donations to help its Summer BBQ fund-raising event that takes place in Old Street, London on Saturday (August 30th) between 11am-4pm.

Sharon Guduza of the charity says: “We are desperately in need of burgers and sausages, and veggie burgers or vegetarian main to be cooked on the day (or delivered if not possible).  We have caterers that will provide chicken however we need to cater for a wider range.

“We are expecting 80 – 150 people on the day, so will be looking at the 120 mark.

“We do appreciate that it is extremely short notice however we would be grateful if you can provide something.”

Action for Children work with children in care, disabled children and young people through around 650 services across the UK. Up to 600,000 children benefit from the support available.  The services include adoption and fostering, family support and specialist schools. Action for Children also tackle issues such as child neglect and abuse.

If you can help please contact Sharon:


North West comes fourth but Wales wins in annual Tiffin Cup

August 8, 2014 | User

A Greater Manchester Indian restaurant has come fourth in the prestigious Tiffin Cup competition held by parliament.

Spice Valley in Horwich, near Bolton, achieved the accolade after being selected from 94 contenders, who were then shortlisted to 13 for the award which was announced in the House of Commons.

The Tiffin Cup is run annually to find the best South Asian restaurant in the country. Nominees are elected by their constituency and put forward by their local MPs. One restaurant from every region is then shortlisted and invited to participate in the Grand Final cook-off at the House of Commons. The event is judged by MPs and guest celebrities, with the proceeds going to charity.

Bolton West MP Julie Hilling put forward the Horwich Restaurant. Spice Valley owner Subhesh Kotecha said: “I am delighted with the support we have had from Julie, so a big thank you to her. I would like to say a huge thank you to the people of Horwich and all our customers who have supported our business over the years.”

The Purple Poppadom in Cardiff brought the title back to Wales. It is the second time they have won the trophy – Chef Anand George also ‘cooked-off’ to seal the prestigious accolade in 2008.

Anand George was one of twelve chefs from all over the UK who competed in the final cook-off in front of judges including TV chef Ainsley Harriott and former Eastenders actress Nina Wadia.

As the only restaurant representing Wales in the competition, Anand George said: “I am so happy to be bringing the Tiffin Cup back to Cardiff and Wales again.”

Lancashire farm launches cookery lessons for the blind

August 7, 2014 | User

A Bolton farm has launched specially designed cooking classes for partially-sighted and blind people.

The Edgworth Wellbeing farm hosted a basic cookery and baking skills workshop for people of all abilities to attend, supported by the Bolton Society for Blind People.

Head chef Robert Nelson and patisserie chef Ellie Godding underwent special training and visual awareness courses in order to deliver the session, which saw a number of students, including Craig Slater, aged 27, and Hannah Day, aged 25, make delicious muffins, the Bolton News reported.

Mr Slater, from Bromley Cross, said: “It has been really nice to come to a regular kitchen for the class and learn new skills.

I have cooked before but this will be of real help to me before I go to study music technology and learn independent living at Royal Northern College for the Blind in Hereford.”

Miss Day, from Westhoughton, added: “I have never really done anything like this before because I have not had the support to do it like we have had today. I think this should continue as it’s important that blind and partially sighted people can get involved with courses like this.”

The farm has won several awards since opening in April 2013 and the classes look set to continue this success.

Already under its belt are a Gold Green Tourism award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme – the largest environmental accreditation body operating within tourism in Europe. In addition the farm won Best Use of Local Produce at the 2013 British Cooker School awards, and in April it won a “farming Oscar” in the start-up category of the Countryside Alliance’s North West Awards. (Bolton News August 4, 2014)

Health chiefs do another u-turn on 5-a-day

July 31, 2014 | User

These days it’s stress from worrying about what we are doing to our bodies that’s more likely to kill us than what we put into them. Not long ago headlines were screaming only 10 a day would save us – and many reported that seven portions of fruit and veg was the optimum quota.

Most of us struggle to incorporate the previous ‘holy grail’ of five into our daily diet. So it is a small relief (but how long for) to learn that researchers have (for the moment) settled on five. Again.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published the results of new study which supported the positive effect of five portions of fruit and veg a day on health, but found there was no further impact when more portions than this amount are consumed.

The study suggested that for every portion of fruit and vegetables consumed, there was a lower risk of premature death. The new analysis looked at 16 studies in the US, Asia and Europe involving more than 833,000 people, of whom about 56,000 died during the follow-up period.

Researchers found a strong link between higher consumption of fruit and vegetables and lower risk of death from all causes, but particularly from heart disease.

They found the average risk of death from all causes was reduced by about 5 per cent for each additional daily serving of fruit and vegetables – but after five portions, no additional benefit was noted for consuming extra portions.

This analysis provides further evidence that a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality,” said the team, led by Prof Frank Hu, of Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, US.

There was a threshold around five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, after which the risk of all causes of mortality did not reduce further.”

Current NHS guidance is to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Most people manage about four, says the BBC.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, commented: “The majority of people in England are not eating enough fruit and vegetables with the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data from 2008 to 2012 showing that only 30 per cent of adults and 41 per cent of older adults met the five-a-day recommendation.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruit, vegetables and fibre and low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, alongside being more active, will help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”

Sources: BBC and Press Association


July 30, 2014 | User

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games will have brought an influx of visitors to the country from abroad – and they might be pleased to learn they are in the most popular spot in the UK for a bit of food shopping.

A study by VisitBritain found that overseas visitors are more likely to purchase food and drink in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, with 40 per cent doing so last year, ahead of the North East of England, which came in second place with 32 per cent.

Among the most popular edibles and goodies purchased are whisky and whisky fudge, Edinburgh Rock, shortbread, tablet, Irn-Bru, Scottish honey, jam and marmalade, Stornoway Black Pudding and tinned haggis.

Four in ten of foreign visitors buy food or drink to take home, figures have shown, and souvenirs are also highly popular. Almost a quarter (22%) of overseas visitors purchased holiday souvenirs while in the country – the highest proportion in the UK, with more than four in ten (43%) buying clothes or shoes.

VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “Not only did Scotland outperform London in terms of total spend growth between 2012 and 2013, but this country is also leading the way in the UK for overseas visitors purchasing our wonderful food, drink and high quality souvenirs.

From delicious shortbreads and tasty tablet to local crafts, jewellery and of course whisky, wherever visitors are they can find a wide range of delicious local flavours and souvenirs to purchase and take home as a reminder of their visit.”

VisitScotland said that food and drink is an integral part of the tourism experience, with the industry worth £13bn a year. The target is to grow this to £16.5bn by 2017.

The organisation said that in 2013, British residents taking overnight leisure (or holiday) trips to Scotland spent £391m on shopping as part of their trip. For the same year, British residents on tourism day trips in Scotland spent £1bn shopping for non-everyday items.

No foods found on sale with misleading ‘country of origin’ claims

July 30, 2014 | User

A study by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) looking into foods labelled as from the UK and Ireland has not found any produce on sale with misleading claims about its country of origin.

The FSA published the results of the study this July (29). The study used a screening technique known as stable isotope ratio analysis (SIRA) to identify if foods were from where they claimed to originate. This was backed up by investigating traceability documentation. Ninety-six food samples were examined including beef, pork, lamb, apple juice, tomatoes and honey – which were claimed to be from the UK, or from the Republic of Ireland. Samples were taken from mid-December 2013 to early January 2014.

Andrew Rhodes, Chief Operating Officer at the FSA, said: “It’s vital that consumers are provided with a true picture as to where the food they buy comes from. If it says it’s produce from the UK then it should be. We wanted to check whether people were receiving accurate information on the origin of their food and the results are reassuring for consumers and businesses.

We also wanted to gain experience of using the relatively new SIRA technology as a tool to show the country of origin of foodstuffs. We found SIRA effective in raising questions about where a food comes from but we relied on traceability information to further investigate origin.

Defra and the FSA are continuing to work with the research community and industry to improve our ability to test the origin of foods and we look to build on this useful piece of work in the months ahead.”

The samples were mostly taken from retail or wholesale outlets, although four samples of raw beef burgers were obtained from caterers. The samples were not fully representative of the market, but, within the limitations of a small study, provided a reasonable spread across retailers and across the four countries of the UK. Samples were taken from both top end food ranges and economy ranges.

Of the 96 samples screened using SIRA, 78 were shown immediately to be consistent with the origin claimed and 18 were identified for follow-up investigation. Traceability and other evidence were requested for 17 of these samples. In all 17 cases the evidence supplied supported the country of origin claim.

Restaurant sector unprepared for new ‘allergens’ laws

July 29, 2014 | User

New legislation on how restaurants deal with questions about allergens in their food is to be introduced in December – yet over 40 per cent are unaware of the new law.

As of 13 December 2014, restaurant operators will be required to answer any questions from consumers about allergens that might be present in the food they sell. The Government extended existing allergen regulations in October 2011, effectively giving a three-year period for restaurants to integrate the information into their businesses. However, 87 per cent of operators polled felt that the changes have not been well communicated by the Government, writes Eat Out Magazine.

Unilever Food Solutions revealed that 43 per cent of restaurateurs are unaware of the impending changes. And over 45 per cent of those who participated in a survey by the company couldn’t identify allergens, despite over 90 per cent admitting they were ‘sometimes’ or ‘frequently’ asked questions about this by customers.

Around 40 per cent (38.6%) of operators have read about the new law in the media and a third found out via the Food Standards Agency, while a small number (13%) received information from their environmental health officer. But the survey highlighted that operators need more help to prepare for the change.

Wendy Duncan, technical manager for Unilever Food Solutions, said: “It’s apparent from our survey and queries we’re getting from our customers, that operators are concerned about the new laws. Less than half of restaurant businesses said they felt ready for the change.

Eighty per cent of restaurateurs told us that they would like a handbook to help them prepare and 28 per cent believe they need to invest more in training.”

In response, Unilever has produced a simple-to-use allergen and diets guide for professional caterers which gives clear and practical advice to help operators prepare for December.

It includes detailed information about the 14 allergens, what foods and products may contain them, and hints and tips on how to make substitutions on their menus,” explained Ms Duncan. “The guide makes an ideal tool to help operators train their staff and there’s an online quiz to test employee knowledge about allergens.”


July 29, 2014 | User

The Great British Bake Off returns to our screens next Wednesday (6 August) and  in recognition of its success it has been moved to BBC1.

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s baking competition garnered average viewing figures of seven million last year, says MSN – which were often higher than programmes at the same time on BBC1 or ITV.

In the new series 12 new contestants will vie to inherit the baking crown won by 2013 winner Frances Quinn. And Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc will helm the show with their usual cake themed double entendres and playful buns – erm, puns.

This year Bake Off is set to get bigger and better with spin-off show The Great British Bake Off – An Extra Slice, presented by Jo Brand, delivering up more delectable goodies in the form of both bakes and gossip.

Echoing Springwatch: Unsprung and The Apprentice: You’re Fired!, An Extra Slice will air directly after the main BBC1 show and will revolve around a panel of celebrities talking about the recent episode and losing baker, as well as showing unseen footage from that week’s challenges. The audience will also bring in their own home bakes to share.

This year among the contestants are the youngest ever Martha at 17 and the oldest Diana at 69. Two contestants come from families of bakers and cake chefs – is it in their genes, will it give them the advantage? And another, Richard, made his wedding cake in the shape of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon – will we see a theme in his creations? All will become clear over the next few months of delectable TV viewing. If only smellevision had been invented…