For the past 20 years or so, concern has been growing about the quality of food available to consumers, and the impact that the food we buy and eat has on both our health and on the health of the environment.
Much of the fruit on supermarket shelves has been sprayed with chemicals that slow down the ripening process, and by the time the fruit reaches the supermarket shelf it may already be several months old. In addition to the long-term effects of these chemicals on the body, this also affects the nutrient content of the fruit. Vegetables such as potatoes may also be treated with chemicals to prevent them from sprouting in the bag.
Virtually all milk sold in Ireland, with a few rare exceptions, is now pasteurized and homogenized. I suspect it is no coincidence that the rate of dairy intolerance (which now affects an unprecedented number of infants, as well as older children and adults), has dramatically increased with the growing consumption of homogenized milk products. Likewise, the growing incidence of gluten-intolerance and celiac disease seems to echo the increasing popularity of bread made using industrial processes and chemical flour improvers, which lower the cost of production and extend the shelf life of the finished product.
However, of greatest concern is the result of a study conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund, which found that consuming processed meat significantly increases the risk of bowel cancer, which is the second most common cancer in Ireland. The increased risk is thought to be mainly due to the various additives such as nitrites which make the meat look more pink.
In response to these issues, a number of groups, such as Slow Food Ireland and the Farmers Market movement, have sprung up to promote the availability of good food, which is produced as locally and as naturally as possible, and which pays a fair price to the producer while still being affordable to the consumer. Fresh, unprocessed, meat, chicken and fish bought from local suppliers benefits your health and well-being, as well as supporting local businesses. Likewise, eating plenty of vegetables which are locally-produced, fresh, unprocessed and preferably organic is one of the best things you can do for your health and for the local economy.
This weekend, Dungarvan will once again host the very popular “West Waterford Festival of Food” from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th April. Its ethos is one of supporting local food producers, and there is a strong emphasis on natural food and healthy eating. As well as the festival market, fine dining experiences, and cookery demonstrations by well-known chefs, the festival programme includes various nutrition and health seminars at the ‘Health Hub’, a brand new addition to the festival, located in Friary Steet, just next to the Town Hall Theatre.
The Health Hub will be showcasing superfoods, fermented foods, and organic wine, and discussing various health topics such as nutrition for pregnancy and infancy, health food fads, and GMO. On Saturday 16th April at 11.30am, I will be hosting an event entitled “The Spice of Life” at the Health Hub, which will look at how to use common culinary herbs and spices for health and healing. Tickets for this event are €5, available for the festival of food website http://www.westwaterfordfestivaloffood.com