I’m a massive believer that much more can to be done to improve public diet and help curb the obesity epidemic. It was recently reported in the Irish Examiner that in Ireland “one in four children were overweight or obese and one in five were going to bed hungry”.
Last week I hosted an information briefing with the Irish Food Writers Guild in Leinster House who presented their White Paper titled ‘The Health of the Nation’. An excellent briefing which was highly informative for all who attended; it hammered home the point that initiatives at improving public diet pay for themselves many times over, on the savings to the public healthcare bill.
They argued that government policy has a huge part to play in educating people on healthy eating and providing greater access for people to healthier affordable foods but currently that government policy remains inadequate. The White Paper looked at 4 key areas of concern, labelling, education, health and sustainable production.
Regarding labelling the issue of misleading labelling on food in supermarkets was raised which is confusing consumers about what food is healthy and what is actually locally produced, as opposed to just packaged in Ireland.
Regarding education representatives from the Guild spoke about a number of initiatives being run in schools aimed at getting children to eat more fruit and veg and so giving them greater insight on their health. On the topic of health it was argued that better eating habits can reduce pressure on the health system as people have fewer health issues and complications.
An inspiring video was shown from a care centre for people with disabilities which has taken a unique approach to the diet of residents by providing individual dietary plans for each resident aimed at improving their health. The results they have seen have been excellent with all the residents’ health improving.
Environmental policy was also looked at and the importance of sustainable production was raised as large scale factory food production is causing environmental degradation at a much larger scale than local and organic production processes. Representatives from the Guild also expressed concern at the potential impact of the TTIP on the health of the nation as American food is subject to a regulatory system which allows much more harmful chemicals and genetic modification into the production process.
More information on the Irish Food Writers Guild is available at: http://www.irishfoodwritersguild.ie/