Agricultural Accountants Welcome new Food Production Grant

Agricultural accountants has welcomed a new £15 million fund to aid research into improving the efficiency of food production in the United Kingdom.

Large companies looking to invest in research in the food industry will be offered the government grants, while smaller businesses will be available to have handouts totalling £500,000.

Defra, will be making the cash available, in cooperation with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the Scottish government.

The aim of the grant is to encourage the food industry to develop new products and ideas to improve manufacturing and food production, whilst having a minimal impact on the environment.

Two competitions will commence at the Farming, Food and Drink Innovation Summit, which will be attended by different people in the food industry including, farmers, manufacturers, suppliers, restaurant insurance providers, food businesses and many others.

Partner in Moore Thompson’s Farming Sector team, Andrew Heskin, said, “Investment in food production is crucial in meeting the needs of an ever growing world population.

“The Government is doing the right thing in helping out businesses to develop cutting-edge ideas that increase efficiency and reduce waste in farming, food and drink production and manufacturing.

“It is particularly pleasing that small businesses will be open to bid for a grant, as they are often the companies that are in most need of this investment.

“These grants should be welcomed by all in the food and farming sector and I urge them to explore the possibility of applying for a slice of this cash.”

Following the summit, there will be regional workshops across England where businesses can find out more about the competitions and their opening dates.

Jim Paice, Agricultural minister said, “The UK has a world-class reputation for innovation.

“I want to take this strength and use it to the economic advantage of the whole country.

“By getting businesses innovating and enhancing the UK’s reputation as a world class pioneer of new production and manufacturing techniques, the food and farming sector can be a real engine for growth.”

Edible Packaging – Would You?

Food packagingProbably not the most mouth watering thought, but edible packaging is being publicised as technology’s next big thing in the food industry.

Heston Blumenthal’s already been experimenting with edible packaging for years. He has created salted caramels wrappers and has also been wrapping palatable paper around packets of soup. Now, two companies in the USA are striving to be the first to release wrappers you can eat commercially.

Dr David Edwards from Havard will be leading the way, he has previously created a “breathable” chocolate called Le Whif and is now focusing on WikiCells, which is an edible membrane made from food particles and biogradible polymer – that can replicate “bottles” found in nature, for example grape skins.

Dr Edwards and his team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup, a grape like membrane holding hot chocolate, a membrane holding wine and an orange membrane filled with orange juice that can be sipped through a straw. Dr Edwards believes that any flavour is possible!

Based in Leicester, Pepceuticals won a £1.3m European research contract to create and develop edible packaging for fresh meat, which can reduce waste. The company also says it could increase shelf life of the meat.

According to research, consumers in the UK spend more cash on meat than any other food but waste a huge 570,000 tonnes each year.

Pepceuticals said, “The potential to apply an antimicrobial film in the processing factory should significantly prevent the deterioration of the fresh meat product, and save waste. It will revolutionise the look and feel of the traditional meat counter,”

Food packaging and waste has been brought up many times, so the benefits of food packaging that can increase shelf life as well as reduce waste are of interest to many people including consumers, UK restaurant insurance providers, manufacturers, restaurants and other food outlets.

The Government’s waste advisor, Wrap, has released the latest figures that packaging waste in the UK supply chain is approximately 6.6m tonnes a year and costs £5bn.

Dr Edwards also has a not for profit organisation called MEND and develops vaccines in spray form through the organisation. He believes that edible bottles could be hugely beneficial to the developing world. He says, “People in a village in Africa could become plastic bottle-free and make things for themselves,” he says. “It’s really exciting from a humanitarian point of view.”

Before edible wrapping goes on the menu, food safety regulators will have to approve it first.

I wonder what will be done to prevent the edible wrapping being too manhandled. What are your thoughts? Would you eat the wrapping?

Strategies to Tackle Obesity Not Working says Medical Professionals

Doctors hit out at the Government’s strategy to tackle obesity as they launch their own campaign to tackle Britain’s junk food & obesity trouble.

The body that represents all the doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists and paediatricians in England, the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges (AoMRC) said that because measures to tackle the fat problem are not working, there was a “huge crisis waiting to happen”.

24% of women and 22% of men in the United Kingdom are now classed as obese – the highest in Europe.

Experts predict that by 2030, the problem of obesity with soar, with 43% of women becoming obese and 48% of men becoming obese.

The body will run a three month investigation to look at the action people can take, as well as how sponsorship and advertising can have an impact.

The AoMRC are asking for a ban on McDonalds advertising at big sporting events e.g. the Olympic Games and wants a ‘fat tax’ on the unhealthiest foods to be put in place.

They are also demanding fast food free zones around schools to be brought in.

Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, is the vice chairman of the AoMRC, who will lead the campaign.

Professor Stephenson said that the campaign would see medical professionals coming together in an unprecedented way. He said, “Our starting point is the collective desire to ensure the healthcare profession is doing all it can to detect, treat, manage – and ultimately prevent – obesity.

“It is unprecedented that the medical royal colleges and faculties have come together on such a high-profile public health issue.”

He said that the current strategies to work on obesity were now working.

He added, “We recognise the huge crisis waiting to happen and believe that current strategies to reduce obesity are failing to have a significant impact.

“Speaking with one voice we have a more of a chance of preventing generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death.”

The campaign will look for the views of local authorities, healthcare professionals, charities, education providers, the public and campaign groups, in the form of oral and written evidence.

The first report, which is due to be published this year, will offer recommendations for how the medical professionals, organisations, individuals and the government can lower obesity levels, which may also have support and different views from other people in the industry including restaurant insurance providers, restaurants, manufacturers and other companies.

Chairman of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, said, “This won’t be just another report that sits on the shelf and gathers dust; it will form the bedrock of our ongoing campaigning activity.

“We are absolutely determined to push for whatever changes need to happen to make real progress in tackling – which is why we’re casting the net wide to get input from a range of organisations and individuals”.

Consumers Play Chicken Roulette as a Fifth of Supermarket Chickens Contain Bugs

The consumer group Which? conducted a series of laboratory tests on supermarket chickens and found; one in five carried a food poisoning bug.  A range of whole and partial chickens were sampled from the UK’s leading supermarkets and 18% carried the common form of food related illness bacteria, campylobacter. In addition, 17% were contaminated with listeria and 1.5% had salmonella.

This causes great concern not only for consumers but for restaurateurs, commercial restaurant insurance providers, farmers and suppliers. They all need to ensure the appropriate steps are taken to minimise the contamination of food provided to the public.

The typical symptoms of the common form of food poisoning include a fever, stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. They can last a number of days and the main treatment involves staying hydrated and consuming small, frequent meals containing foods that digest easily like toast, crackers, bananas and rice. People with more serious symptoms and severe dehydration should see their GP.

Three years ago the Food Standards Agency discovered 65% of chickens where contaminated and steps were taken to improve this, however today’s results show current levels of food bugs are still not low enough. In retailer’s defence, the British Retail Consortium has labelled Which? as scaremongers, deterring the public from trusting the quality of the chickens producers and retailers provide. They argue that many bacteria including campylobacter naturally occur in the stomachs of many animals.

Provided the chicken is stored at the correct temperature and is fully cooked, the risk of falling ill should be minimal. The British Retail Consortium’s food director, Andrew Opie added, “campylobacter is completely killed by normal cooking so providing people prepare chicken properly and follow sensible hygiene practices, they’re at no risk.”

In response to their scaremongering accusation, executive director at Which? Richard Lloyd said, “While the situation is improving, it is still unacceptable that one in five chickens we tested were found to be contaminated with campylobacter. We want to see the risk of contamination minimised, because for far too long consumers have been expected to clean up mistakes made in the supply chain.”

Tasty Food Festivals in Europe

It’s that time of year again; food festivals are upon us, exciting many foodies across the UK. Food festivals range from a show of different foods, while other festivals focus on one type of food or ingredient. In the UK, there’s Ludlow food festival and Abergavenny food festival (nicknamed the Glastonbury of food festivals) which are both being held in September. Another interesting food festival is solely based around watercress. The centre of Alresford holds a huge street party in honour of this local “superfood”.

Food festivals occur in Europe throughout the year. Local fairs in Sicily celebrate couscous to cannoli, while Germany has been celebrating onions since 1653, complete with an onion queen!

Here are a few other tasty food festivals:

The Dublin Bay Prawn Festival – 27th – 29th April – Enjoy food and wine tastings along with a firework display by Howth Harbour – There’s also a prawn shelling competition!

Nordic Championships in Oyster Opening – 27th- 29th April – In Tanumstrand on the west coast of Sweden, enjoy seafood safaris with local fishermen and learn how to shuck an oyster!

Spanish Cheese Festival – 28th April – 1st May – Taste hundreds of mouth watering cheeses in Trujillo!

Fête de la Gastronomie – 22nd September – With around 3,000 events, the whole of France becomes a giant food festival. We know that the French love their food, so this is one event not to miss!

The Great British Food Festival – 4th-5th June – If you don’t fancy travelling abroad, Walton Hall near Warrington, will be holding the Great British Food Festival, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Pop up food festivals are supported by everyone in the food industry including restaurateurs, commercial restaurant insurance providers, suppliers, farmers and manufacturers. It’s something that everyone can enjoy!

Will you be visiting any food festivals this summer? Have you visited any unusual food festivals in the past?

Cut Down on Unlicensed Food Vendors at the Olympic Games

Enjoyed by many, the greasy burger vans that can be found by many sports fans could be hard to find at the London Olympics.

In an attempt to protect visitors from food poisoning and being ripped off by rogue operations, the government’s food watchdog is cracking down on unlicensed hot dog, burger and fish and chips vans at the London Olympics.

The FSA (Food Standards Agency) has given £1.5million to pay for an extra 14,700 food hygiene inspections from April to September, covering pubs, restaurants, stalls and vans across the country during the Paralympics and Olympic games.

There is an expected increase in bootleg alcohol, people serving food from their front garden and businesses stockpiling food due to delivery routes being cut, which inspectors are facing.

Hundreds of environmental health officials with be driving the force, with 10 senior officers overlooking them and providing advice and extra training to caterers and restaurants who fail additional hygiene and safety inspections.

Where public health is put at risk, tough enforcement action will follow. Street vendors that are unlicensed and without a restaurant insurance policy near Olympic venues will have their vehicles detained.

Head of enforcement and local authority delivery at the agency, Sarah Appleby, said, “London 2012 is about celebrating everything that the UK has to offer and food is an important part of this.

“We have so much fantastic food to showcase to Games visitors, and we want food business owners to ensure that everything they sell is the best it can be. It will be an exceptionally busy time for a lot of these businesses, and the FSA is providing extra support and advice to make sure they are well prepared to meet the challenge.”

Security at the Olympic Park will stop visitors from bringing their own food to the games, although people can refill their water bottles at water fountains.

Burger King Menu Reinvention Similar to McDonalds

In recent years, Burger King has struggled to stay near the top of the fast-food chain.  The need for healthy eating has become increasingly important for people and oily burgers and fries are becoming less appealing. Competitors like Subway have taken advantage of this change in consumer attitude. Their wide range of salad-laden sandwiches has boosted their popularity, making them the second largest food chain in the country.  Like any other chain of restaurants, large or small, Subway will need to take out restaurant insurance for each new store they open.

Over the past year, Burger King Executives have been working tirelessly to evaluate all the items on their menu and work out what needs to be done in order to boost their dwindling sales.  While other restaurants like McDonalds, Subway and KFC have taken steps to provide healthier option meals, Burger King failed to do so.  That changed however when it was bought by new owners and 15 key executives spent 3 months assessing all aspects of the menu, from the vanilla content in ice cream to their method of frying.

After much debate they settled on a new menu which is currently available in the US, although some similar options can be purchased in the UK. The latest additions include chicken strips, chicken wraps, speciality salads and smoothies.  These new items are healthier than their usual offerings, but they still contain a few more calories than McDonalds.

In addition to similar calorie content, the actual food is very similar to what McDonalds have been offering for sometime. For example, Burger King has a “Ranch Crispy Chicken Snack Wrap” and a “Honey Mustard Crispy Chicken Snack Wrap”. These wraps are 370 and 390 calories respectively. Competing from McDonalds is their 350 calorie Ranch Snack Wrap with Crispy Chicken and their 330 calorie Honey Mustard Snack Wrap with Crispy Chicken. Burger King Executives can not deny that their food is alarmingly similar but they argue they are simply giving the consumers what they demand. President of Burger King’s North America operations, Steve Wiborg said “Consumers wanted more choices. Not just healthy choices, but choices they could get at the competition”.

Heated Debate over Hot Food VAT Continues

During the Budget 2012 announcement, George Osborne explained that the introduction of 20% VAT on pasties, rotisserie chickens and other hot foods was done to “clarify the definition of ‘hot takeaway food’, as he felt many loopholes needed to be overcome.

Many members of the public are outraged at this price increase, including companies like Greggs and the West Cornwall Pasty Company whose main revenue comes from the sale of pasties. With such a large national outcry many politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, have spoken up on the matter consequently providing Greggs with increased publicity. Mr Cameron explained he “loves a hot pasty” but the VAT rules need to be “fairly applied”. He continued by explaining the unfairness of small businesses paying tax while large supermarkets sold VAT free cooked chickens.

For the past few days the nation has been obsessed with pasty news, with phrases like ‘pasty gate’ trending on twitter and the publishing of numerous photographs of MPs, with a tooth-aching smile, buying pasties from Greggs. Leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband voiced his opinions on the matter after leaving Greggs, criticising the Conservative government’s decisions over the past few days. “There is a serious point here which is that the Government is hitting people’s living standards in every way they can. Not just fuel duty going up, child benefit taken away, tax credits being cut, now even putting 20 per cent on the cost of pasties, sausage rolls, and the Chancellor’s excuse? Well, he says you can buy them cold and you can avoid the tax.”

“It just shows how out of touch this Government is and it shows that we’ve got a Budget that is hitting millions of people while cutting taxes for millionaires. It’s not fair and it’s out of touch with the vast majority of people in this country”.

Since the budget announcement, Greggs shares fell by around £30million. With this lack of confidence in the hot foods sector, smaller businesses and restaurants that provide fresh hot snacks will need to work hard to offset the negative impact this VAT will have on their sales. This will include sourcing cheaper items like furnishings, ingredients and commercial restaurant insurance.

Burger King Release 708 Calorie Lamb Burger

One of the largest fast food chains in the country, Burger King, has released a new lamb burger. They were hoping it would be adopted as a healthier alternative to the beef burger, but the combination of the various ingredients has made it one of the highest calorie meals on the menu.

While this burger appears to be the only lamb burger on offer in the major fast food chains, it is not expected to be produced indefinitely. This is because the price of lamb meat has considerably increased over the last few years. Despite this fact, Burger King have been pushing the sales of this burger with adverts featuring the phrase, “1st Time Ever” and its release coincides with the Easter season where lamb is the popular meat to eat.  It is also possible they have added lamb burgers to the menu as many upscale, trendy restaurants have been serving it for a while. With this in mind, aspiring restaurateurs may choose to follow suit when they design their own menu after purchasing their own building, complete with UK restaurant insurance.

The main distinguishing feature of this new burger is not the lamb meat but the flat bread it is enveloped in. The rosemary flatbread alone is 287 calories, combined with the 357 calorie lamb meat, 40 calories of mint yoghurt sauce, and the remaining calories being made up of salad vegetables and chilli ketchup. Surprisingly, McDonald’s Big Mac has fewer calories (490) despite it being loaded with three slices of bread and two beef burgers.

Of all the burgers supplied by Burger King, their hamburger is the lowest calorie burger with just 284. You would need to eat more than two of these in order to match the calories consumed from one lamb flatbread burger. Followed by the Hamburger, is the 325 calorie Cheeseburger, a Bacon Double Cheeseburger with 495, the Veggie burger with 590, the Chicken Royale has 608 and the Whopper has 651 calories.

Take Away Pizza Saltier Than Sea Water

Recent research by health organisations has found that many pizzas sold in takeaways, restaurants and supermarkets contain the maximum daily allowance of salt, if not more. The results were found by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and the Association of London Environmental Health Managers, after they analysed 199 margherita and pepperoni pizzas.

This survey coincided with Salt Awareness Week, as the government and health organisations do all they can to ensure people have a healthy, balanced diet. The recommended daily allowance of salt for an adult is 6g. Many of the pizzas tested contained more than this, with some reaching 10g.
One of the more startling discoveries came from the London Restaurant, Adam & Eve in Mill Hill, which sold a pepperoni pizza that contained 2.73g of salt per 10g. This is saltier than the Atlantic Ocean which contains 2.5g per 100g.

Since the survey was released however, Adam & Eve have reduced the amount of salt in their pizza but it still remains at worryingly high levels, as do most pizzas. It is recommended restaurants take steps to improve their recipes and make them healthier, as a growing number of Brits are making conscious efforts to eat healthy. In order for restaurateurs to protect themselves from this ever changing food industry, investment in quality restaurant insurance will provide peace of mind while they strive to improve their business.

Supermarkets have made efforts to reduce the amount of salt in their products as colour coded nutrition information has become a common feature of food labelling. Red signs quite clearly indicate large quantities and high levels of salt consumption can increase the risk of high blood pressure and strokes. Takeaway foods however do not publish nutrition levels, so consumers can unknowingly eat extremely high levels of salt.

As a result, the government is being urged to enforce stronger regulations. The Department of Health has called for food companies to have the salt levels in their products contain no more than 1.25g per 100g by the end of this year. At present, only 16% of takeaway pizzas adhere to this, unlike the 75% of supermarket pizzas.