UK nursery adopts fully vegan menu

Jigsaw Day Nurseries based in Chester, UK, has just announced it will be serving a fully vegan menu to the 260 children aged between 3 months - 4 years it cares for from January 2020. Parents have been left divided by the decision, which was made without formal consultation with some criticising the move, while others have expressed their support. Defending the decision, Jigsaw’s founder, Claire Taylor, said the unilateral decision had been made “with the children and the planet’s future in mind”. Ms Taylor says the menu has been developed in consultation with a nutrition professional, but with the UK’s Eatwell Guide, depicted front and centre in the nursery’s vision board, we question whether it is truly a health creation menu. Whilst a plant dominant diet may indeed be a healthy diet, most are deficient in key nutrients that are required for child development, such as DHA and protein. They may also be deficient in certain vitamins such as B12, and minerals such as zinc, both being required for brain function. These foods may also often be highly or ultra-processed, new foods that further impact the body. While schools and children are rightly concerned about the dire state of the planet, taking such unilateral action without adequate consent from nutritional specialists in child development is major cause for concern. Especially when there is increasing evidence that it is the industrial production systems for animal-based foods, not the foods themselves, that are such significant contributors to climate change, as well as biodiversity and habitat loss. Current evidence would suggest the most responsible strategy for schools, that ensures both optimum nutrition for children as well as minimum impacts to the environment, would be sourcing foods locally or regionally, from sustainable and agro-ecological production systems. View our latest video on the numerous other ways to reduce the impact of our diets on the environment.

Impact of air pollution on children’s health

Exposure to air pollution can seriously impact your child’s health according to two new studies carried out by researchers at King’s College, London. The first carried out in the UK city of Bristol, showed the life expectancy of an eight year old child (born in 2011) exposed to high levels of air pollution during their lifetime could be reduced by six months. The second produced in collaboration with 15 health and environment NGOs, revealed the serious health risks of living near a busy road. Analysing data from 13 cities across the UK and Poland the report found increased risks of heart attack, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and bronchitis (particularly in children with asthma) along with stunted lung development in children. Bristol City has already taken steps to reduce pollution by establishing a Clean Air Zone. Meanwhile calls are being made by the coalition of organisations involved in the second study for all political parties in the UK to prioritise the reduction of air pollution.

Soaring obesity rates in Latin American

Levels of obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean have tripled since 1975 alongside increasing levels of hunger and malnutrition. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) latest report ‘Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean’, makes stark reading as it reveals that 24% of the regional population are now obese. That’s almost double the global rate of 13.2%. The Caribbean has seen the most significant increase with a rise from 6% to 25% of the population. The report also details the impact of a changing food landscape with fast growing sales of ultra-processed foods crowding out traditional foodstuffs and driving increases in preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. All of which are leading to an estimated 600,000 deaths a year in the region with those in the lowest socio-economic bracket the hardest hit. The report urges countries across the region to take swift action to address the issues.

Big Food companies targeting teens on social media

US teenagers using social media are being bombarded by ads for junk foods. Seventy percent of teens questioned in a recent survey published in Appetite were found to have interacted with brands promoting food and drink on social media streams in 2017. The overwhelming trend, which accounted for 93% of engagements, was for engagement with brands promoting fast food, unhealthy snacks, sugary drinks and candy. The study authors from UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have urged Big Food companies to stop targeting highly susceptible teens with products that can harm their long-term health. They also backed the introduction of sugar taxes on sugary drinks to reduce teens’ consumption. Lead author, Dr Fran Fleming-Milici, said, “Companies usually pay big bucks to market their brands, but with social media they are getting teens to do it for free. And, since teens’ choices are heavily influenced by their peers, the payoff is huge.”

Palm oil can be sustainable

Growing palm oil on disused pasture could dramatically reduce its environmental footprint and make it more sustainable. That’s the conclusion of a new study from Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology (EPFIL) which looked at ways to reduce the ecological devastation caused by deforestation in the palm oil industry. Carried out as part of the Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL) project, researchers analysed soil from plantations that were converted to pasture land 56 years ago in Columbia. They found that although there were losses of stored carbon after the initial planting, carbon sinks were replenished by the die-off from the old oil palms after the second replanting leading to a virtually carbon-neutral system. A Liberian entrepreneur believes he has found another way to improve production from wild-growing trees and make it more sustainable by installing milling machines in rural communities. With demand for palm oil showing no signs of decreasing along with increasing levels of environmental destruction, we are in dire need of additional options that safeguard the environment.

US nutrition organisations unite

Five major nutrition organisations in the US have united to form the American Nutrition Association (ANA). The new organisation brings together the American College of Nutrition, Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists, Center for Nutrition Advocacy, Accreditation Council for Nutrition Professional Education and the American Nutrition Association Foundation. Recognising the power of nutrition to prevent and reverse chronic disease the ANA has been formed to champion the use of personalised nutrition to prevent the development of chronic disease using one unified voice.

Call for food supplements to be covered by US health insurance

Politicians in the US are calling on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to allow dietary supplements (that carry health claims) to be considered as medical expenses under health benefit plans. IRS regulations currently prevent the cost of dietary supplements from being claimed, as they are “taken to maintain your ordinary good health and aren’t for medical care”. In their letter, the politicians countered the claim saying such items are covered under the IRC definition of medical care (1954), as they are used to maintain good health and prevent disease. A similar request was also sent by House lawmakers a few days earlier. Senator Tim Scott said, “We need to empower folks to be able to make the best choices as it relates to their wellbeing and that of their families”, and, “to enable Americans to make proactive choices that will improve their overall health”. Senator Scott was also involved in the introduction of the SNAP Vitamin and Mineral Improvement Act of 2019 designed to make dietary supplements available to those Americans on a low-income.

EU Save the Bees campaign launched

The European Citizen’s Initiative ‘Save the bees!’ has been launched. It calls on the EU to phase out the use of synthetic pesticides by 2035, give support to farmers and save bees and nature. It brings together 90 organisations across 17 EU countries supported by organic farming associations seeking to redress the balance and restore biological diversity to the environment. The campaign has until September 2020 to gather one million signatures in order to get the EU Commission and Parliament to consider turning its demands into law. Join the movement and add your voice to the calls to protect an essential part of our food production systems and the environment surrounding them.