Demand for organic food poses threat, farmers say

“The concern over diet and nutrition is turning into a questioning of the safety and value of the food supply itself,” federation president Brigid Pyke told the Ontario cabinet.

chemical in food

Fear of the possible dangers of chemicals in food is one of several problems facing the farming industry, she said in presenting the federation’s annual brief to the cabinet. The federation represents about 22,000 farming families.

Other problems include the sharp decline in the value of the equity held by farmers and the possibility that trade agreements will allow food importers to override limits on food imports.

Stressing that public concern with chemicals in food is a long-term problem, the federation said farmers and food processors are trying to deal with it on their own. “Increasingly, farmers are using fewer and better pesticides and pest management strategies,” the federation said.

But Mrs. Pyke warned that “pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, hormones in beef and (the growth hormone) BST in milk have become big news. Understandably, consumers are reacting with alarm.”

Most people are ignorant of current farm practices, she said. “Ignorance breeds fear, and media exposes convert that fear to panic.”

Some companies are trying to benefit from those fears with sales techniques that include labelling that stresses that products are “natural”.

To deal with consumers’ uncertainty about chemicals in their food, the OFA wants the government to launch “a broad-based public education program to inform consumers about food production systems and existing safety assurance programs.”

Another area of major concern to the federation is high interest rates, which the federation said are exacerbating a sharp decline in farm values. Mrs. Pyke said that between 1981 and 1987 Canadian farmers lost $31- billion in equity in their assets including land, machinery and animals. The equity figure fell to $81-billion from $112-billion.

“Interest rates hit 13.5 per cent earlier this year and appear stuck at that level. Implementation of the federal goods and services tax promises to increase inflation and push interest rates higher,” Mrs. Pyke said.

To deal with this, the OFA wants the provincial government to reintroduce a program of interest rate assistance for the short term. For the long term it wants the government to develop a program to help farmers burdened by heavy debt and high interest rates.

A third problem is a loss of protection under the free-trade agreement with the United States and as a result of decisions by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Mrs. Pyke said.

BABIES HOOKED ON JUNK FOOD; Children as young as 12 months fed diet of biscuits and sweets

junk-food

SCOTTISH children are being condemned to life as junk food addicts as early as their first birthday, health experts warned yesterday.

Scotland already has one of the highest child obesity rates in the world, with one in five overweight when they start primary school.

New Scottish Government figures show children aged 12-18 months are gorging on high-sugar, high-calorie foods such as cakes, biscuits and confectionery. The figures, from the Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children in Scotland, show the proportion of children aged 12-18 months consuming biscuits was 72 per cent.

Some 65 per cent of children in the age group are regularly consuming ‘sugar, preserves and confectionery’. The survey also found that 77 per cent of children were given food other than milk before six months of age, which is not in compliance with international and Scottish Government guidelines.

Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said: ‘We are raising a generation of children addicted to sugar. It keeps parents happy and the food manufacturers happy. Children are consuming too many calories, too quickly, too early, through inappropriate early weaning on inappropriate food. It is a perfect storm.

‘The food is not healthy and then there are the fizzy drinks which are calorie-laden and not nutritious. The result is we have fat and overweight babies at that age. There is also the economics involved and what they are being given is the wrong type of food. It is ready-made indulgence food. They get yesterday’s ground down Chinese leftovers.’

The survey also looked at the diets of mothers, which could be linked with poor dietary choices for their children. It found mothers reported eating crisps and sweets more frequently, drinking sweetened drinks more often, being more likely to use butter as spread and less likely to eat oily fish frequently and to have fresh vegetables available.

Independent Scots nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton said: ‘If you have a hungry toddler who is running around you think, I’ll give them a biscuit. Children are getting too many snacks and we are not giving small enough portions. They don’t need a whole biscuit. Just give them half.’

Recent research indicated women with poor diets were condemning their children to a lifetime of ill-health even before they conceived. A mother’s eating habits before and during pregnancy can have a huge impact on her offspring’s health and success in life, according to Professor Paul Haggarty of Aberdeen University .He said: ‘Research suggests improvements in the early nutritional, emotional and physical environment could have long-term health benefits for brain development and behaviour.’ In Scotland, up to 30 per cent of women are obese when they become pregnant. In addition, the number of births in which the baby is dangerously overweight has soared by up to 20 per cent in some areas.

Scottish Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: ‘In future, if health prevention strategies are to work, that depends significantly on getting the help to parents in the early years and encouraging the right kind of diet and lifestyle. The odd biscuit or sweet isn’t going to harm anyone, but it shouldn’t be a diet to be relied upon.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Our Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition: A Framework for Action is the first framework which looks at the nutrition of mothers before and during pregnancy, supports and promotes the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of a healthy diet throughout early childhood.

‘In line with the World Health Organisation, we recommend babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months, then given suitable complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed.’

WEANING

SOME 77 per cent of children were given food other than milk before six months of age, in defiance of the recommendation to delay the introduction of solids until then. Most of the children who ate food other than milk almost always had the same food as their parents.

FRUIT AND VEG

FRUIT consumption was significantly lower for children in receipt of Healthy Start vouchers in Scotland compared to the entire sample for both those aged 4-11 months and those aged 12-18 months. Vegetable consumption was significantly lower for those aged 4-11 months.

MOST MEALS EATEN IN FRONT OF THE TV

meal-infront-of-tv

AFTER a busy day, it’s all too easy to eat your dinner in front of the TV rather than make the effort to have a traditional family meal.

Six out of ten meals consumed in British homes are eaten while watching TV, according to a study.

The survey, which highlights the extent to which millions have abandoned the dining table, found the average person eats 13 meals at home each week, and at least eight are eaten while watching TV. But 45 per cent say they don’t enjoy the food they’re eating.

The research was commissioned by Red Tractor beef and lamb, a logo scheme designed to assure shoppers about the quality and traceability of the beef and lamb they are buying.

Spokesman Jane Ritchie-Smith said: ‘Although there’s nothing wrong with the odd TV dinner, it’s worrying so many aren’t enjoying the food they’re eating.’

Obesity on the curriculum

LAST week we asked whether, given growing concerns about childhood obesity, school canteens should stock only healthy food.

child-obeysity

Jackie Taylor, a reader from Buderim in Queensland:

“Schools are the educators of our children. Education is not only the three R’s etc, but lifestyle. Good diet and nutrition should be a part of this education and should be reinforced by the school canteens. That seems to be plain common sense.”

Kate Cheng, who works at the West Australian Department of Education, from Fremantle:

“I understand the growing concern (international panic?) about obesity and health, but nutritionists for the school canteen?

“Most canteen volunteers are parents of the school children and would certainly be aware of nutrition and healthy eating.

“Most of the research on this tells us it’s not the food, it’s that we’re eating way too much and it’s the lack of exercise.”

Paul Weaver, a parent of nine children from Palmyra in Perth:

“(Our children) always take a cut lunch prepared at home. Two sandwiches for the big ones and one for the little ones, plus something for playlunch, such as a piece of fruit.

“Due to the cost, family trips to fast-food outlets don’t happen. Birthday parties thrown at these places by other families usually ensure two or three burgers a year. We have no concerns about these indulgences. Nor have we ever felt the need to ban anything from their diet.

“Why are our kids not overweight? Without exception all of them usually walk or ride to school. Kids who walk or ride bikes to school are a minority.

ride-to-school

“We always escort our primary school kids back and forth for fear of predators and dangerous drivers. I suspect these are significant reasons why so many parents take children to school in cars. Parental fear of predators may be a significant contributor to child obesity.

“Nutritional police have been interfering with school canteens for a long time, and at our primary school have imposed a ban on peanut butter, lest some unknown allergic waif be affected. Where should it end?

“Vegemite and cheese has also had its critics because of the salt content.

“We chose to bypass the canteens and give our kids everything at one time or another. Why don’t more parents make lunch for their kids? It is not that hard.”

Next week Forum asks:

Should students from secular government schools be provided with some form of religious education?

What do you think?