The burger from 1991 that still looks fresh!

September 15th, 2014

Here’s a story about a man who’s been saving hamburgers, cheeseburgers and Big Macs for more than 22 years!

And yep, you’ve guessed it, they all look pretty much exactly as they did when first fried. in fact, the earliest in the collection is from 1991 and it really doesn’t look more than a day old. And if that isn’t enough to put you off, the really weird thing is, no birds, animals or insects will go near them. Creepy!

He’s the inspiration behind The Burger Museum, a showcase for his unusual collection. He’s also the inspiration behind Morgan Spurlock’s famous experimentation with rotting burgers in the film Super Size Me. But there are countless examples of burgers that just won’t die.


The burger on the right is two years old but the one of the left has been around for 12 years and although quite clearly has no decay, it apparently has a very odd smell. While this one has been carried around in a women’s handbag for four years!

The latest in this sorry tale about the fast food industry, is a collection of photographs from New York photographer, Sally Davies, who has been photographing a McDonald’s burger on her coffee table for the past 170 odd days – and yep, again – they look spookily fresh. Check out the Happy Meal Project, that’s still going strong.

So how do they do it? Here at Debate, we began by wringing our hands about chemicals and preservatives, but on closer inspection it seems the real reason these burgers remain mummified may be a little more simple. According to Salon’s Riddhi Shah, the never die burgers may just be a result of all that fat and salt.

Salon writes…

“Anything that is high in fat will be low in moisture,” says Barry Swanson, a professor at the Washington State University department of food science. And low moisture means less room for mold to grow. They’re crisper and thinner than regular fries, which means that they’re exposed to greater heat per surface area, killing pathogens and reducing water content. McDonald’s fries are also coated in a nice, thick layer of salt, something we’ve been using as a natural preservative for the last 2,500 years.

The beef patty is also high in fat — varying between 37 and 54 percent of the total caloric content — and has been cooked at a high temperature. “It’s also very thin, which once again means high heat per surface area,” says Sean O’Keefe, a professor of food science at Virginia Tech.

Indeed, McDonald’s have refuted claims about using preservatives in their beef, and continually herald their commitment to sanitation and freshness. Well, given this lot here, there’s no denying it looks fresh. For many, many years to come!

Photo credit: Karen Hanrahan.

Find out more


The Bionic Burger museum.

Morgan Spurlock’s great read, Don’t Eat this Book

What McDonald’s say about their ingredients in a Happy Meal.

Celebrity vegans

September 12th, 2014

Bill-Clinton,-thanks-to-Donkeyhotey-on-FlickrWhat do Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt and Ozzy Osborne have in common? (And it doesn’t involve taking a stroll down the red carpet.)

All three of them are vegan.

In fact, it seems the list of celebrities not only eschewing meat but animal products is long. Along with the predictable , Darryl Hannah, Morrissey, and Sinead O’Connor, there are some real surprises like comedian Russell Brand and Olympic athlete Carl Lewis.

In fact, according to the Vegan Society, Carl Lewis credits his best year, winning Olympic gold many times over to a vegan diet.

“We have triathletes, marathon runners, all sorts of sportsman who are into a vegan diet,” says Amanda Baker from the Vegan Society. “

There’s even a few heavyweight wrestlers, like Brian “The American Dragon” Danielson and US body builder Mike Mahler who finally put paid to cliches of the pale, frail vegan.

And a glance at the history books show it’s not such a recent phenomenon either.

Leonard da Vinci apparently refused all animal products, although of course there wasn’t an official name for it in the 16th century.

In fact the term vegan was coined by Englishman Donald Watson in the 1940’s. Born into a meat loving Yorkshire family, Watson spent much time on his uncle’s farm and became vegan after watching a pig being slaughtered. It was a New Year’s Resolution that stuck, for in 1944, he founded the Vegan Society, coming up with the name by putting together the first three and last two letters of vegetarian – as he put it: “the beginning and end of vegetarian.”

Watson writes in the society’s first magazine, Vegan News, penned by Watson:

“We can see quite plainly that our present civilization is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilizations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies.”

The Vegan Society has come a long way since then and have just started a mentoring scheme whereby  new members pledge to become vegan but with the help of another local and long standing member.

And with 150-200 new vegans joining every month, the scheme is rapidly become a big success. “Having someone on hand to ask all the questions and provide the local knowledge about where to buy food has been great,” says Baker. She adds that although most people expect cheese to be the hardest comfort to give up, on the mentoring scheme, people rapidly realise there are lots of alternatives out there.”

To join the mentoring scheme, take a look at the Vegan Society website.

Photo: Thanks to Donkeyhotey on Flickr.

Rainforests – breathing life into the earth’s lungs

September 11th, 2014


Rainforests are vital to the world’s finely balanced eco system – essentially, they’re a great big pair of lungs for the world. And yet, every day, great swathes of forest are cut down to grow soya, graze cattle or plant palm oil plantations – all staples of the global food chain.

Debate Your Plate has pulled together a number of campaigns so you can help give the world’s rainforests a chance to breathe.


Know your ABC’s

Industrial agriculture is one of the fastest growing threats to rainforests across the world. Three major agribusiness giants have become known as the ABC of rainforest destruction.

They are: ADM, Bunge and Cargill who all are destroying rainforests  in order to grow soy and palm oil plantations.

The San Franciscan based, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has been dubbed “some of the most savvy environmental agitators in the business” by the Wall Street Journal, and they’re certainly adept at using  hard-hitting campaigns, with humour to embarrass and force multinationals to change. RAN has initiated the Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign, calling on these ABC’s to stop the environmental destruction they’re causing.


RAN writes…

U.S. agribusiness giants ADM, Bunge and Cargill are establishing soy and palm oil operations in some of the planet’s most biodiverse forests.

They are expanding into threatened tropical ecosystems at breakneck speed, wreaking environmental havoc, contributing to human rights abuses and intensifying climate change.

This expansion, or agrisprawl…is feeding the US’s unsustainable appetite for junk food, animal protein and agrofuels.

ADM is deeply involved in the production and marketing of both palm oil and soy. It is also one of the greatest recipients of corporate welfare, which means taxpayers are subsidizing ADM’s role in rainforest destruction. ADM is also the strongest promoter of agrofuels in the United States.

Bunge, though not a household name in the U.S., is the largest agribusiness and food company operating in Brazil. Bunge’s soy operations are devastating communities and ecosystems throughout South America.

Cargill is the most powerful agribusiness and commodity trading group in the world. It is involved in producing and marketing palm oil and soy grown on freshly cleared rainforest lands. In 2003, Cargill built an illegal soy port on the Amazon River which doubled deforestation rates in the area.


Check out the ingredients of many products in your local supermarket and you’ll find palm oil. It’s in everything from Cherrios to sweets – even soap. And soya is exported from South America to the UK, the US and across the world as “cheap”, high protein feed for cattle.

RAN have also started a campaign against major food producer General Mills for using palm oil in thousands of their products.

Join RAN’s campaign by ringing General Mill’s CEO, Kevin Powell.

Royalty and the rainforest

Prince's Rainforest charityIn the words of Prince Charles and his Rainforests Project: “If we lose the battle against tropical deforestation, we lose the battle against climate change.”

This project campaigns and lobbies on international levels for a halt to deforestation and it’s well worth a look around to get a handle on the bigger picture.


The Prince’s Rainforests Project writes…

Rainforests wrap around the equator of the earth like a green belt. After millions of years of evolution, they are the most biologically rich ecosystems on our planet. Tropical rainforests contain a hugely rich diversity of species of plants and animals.

Rainforests are precious resources for all of us – not just for the nations in which they are found. They provide vital ecosystem benefits for the whole world. They store water, regulate rainfall and provide a home to over half the planet’s biodiversity. But more importantly, they also play a crucial role in climate change. And that’s why we’re worried.

When it comes to climate change, the destruction of rainforests has a double whammy effect for everyone. Rainforests absorb almost a fifth of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions every year. But tropical deforestation releases an extra 17% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. So if the rainforests are destroyed, it’s bad news on both counts.


One to keep an eye on…

The Greenpeace report Slaughtering the Amazon, exposed the link between forest destruction and the rapidly expanding cattle ranching in the Amazon.

It is now the leading cause of deforestation anywhere in the world. Greenpeace campaigned for major food (and shoe manufacturers) to stop using cattle for deforested lands – and it seemed they had won.

But all the companies have missed their deadline of April 2010.

Greenpeace are giving them another chance – but this one is definitely one to watch. Check out the Greenpeace campaign.

Greenpeace writes…

Destruction of the Amazon, the world’s most important forest carbon store, is being driven by the cattle sector. The Brazilian Amazon has the greatest annual average deforestation by area of anywhere in the world.

The cattle sector is the key driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. According to the Brazilian government: ‘Cattle are responsible for about 80% of all deforestation’ in the Amazon region. In recent years, on average one hectare of Amazon rainforest has been lost to cattle ranchers every 18 seconds.

The cattle sector in the Brazilian Amazon is responsible for 14% of the world’s annual deforestation. This makes it the world’s largest driver of deforestation, responsible for more forest loss than the total deforestation in any country outside Brazil except Indonesia.

Our supporters and campaigners put shoe brands including Nike, Timberland, Adidas and Clarks, and UK food giant Princes, under serious pressure to take responsibility for making sure that leather and beef in their products was not bought from farmers actively destroying the forest. And it worked.

The big brands threatening to move their business elsewhere led to an extraordinary agreement from the biggest cattle companies in the world, to not buy from farms that destroyed the rainforest.

It was a really swift result, although it’s worth remembering that what seemed like rapid change was based on 10 years of Greenpeace work in the Amazon, and a 3 year long investigation into the cattle industry.

But getting companies to agree to change the way their do business is only half of the story. To make sure that they backed up their words with action, we set some deadlines for the cattle companies to meet, with the first test of their commitment being set for April.

Disappointingly, all of the companies came back with excuses. None of them had met the deadline.

And so, as campaigners, we were faced with a difficult dilemma. Should we keep expecting change from the cattle companies, or should we assume that they just weren’t taking the issue seriously? It took a lot of careful thinking and negotiating, but we eventually decided to give them a little more time.

We think that with enough pressure from their customers we can give them the push they need to get them back on track. But it might not work. And if it doesn’t we’ll need your help again.

Photo: Thanks to Tauntingpanda on Flickr for rainforest photo.

Bottled water companies: good stewards of the environment?

September 10th, 2014

The viral film, the Story of Bottled Water revealed the dirty tricks played by the bottled water companies.  Read the rest of this entry »

Recipe: lemon drizzle cake with berries

September 2nd, 2014


This is sticky cake at its best!


For the cake 
125g butter 
150g caster sugar 
2 eggs 
175g self raising flour 
5 tbsp milk 
juice of one lemon 
zest of one lemon 

For the drizzle 
juice of two lemons 
110g icing sugar


1.Turn the oven onto 175 degrees celsius. 

2.Grease and line a loaf tin. 

3.Cream the butter and sugar. 

4.Add the eggs, lemon zest and mix well. 

5.Fold in the flour and add the milk. 

6.Once it’s all mixed well, add the lemon juice. 

7.Fold into the tin and cook for 40 minutes. 

8.To make the drizzle, mix the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and slowly heat. 

9.When the cake is cooked, poke small holes in the top with a fine skewer and pour over the heated lemon mixture. (Save some for the top of the berries.) 

10.Allow to cool and cover with berries. 

11. Heat and add more lemon drizzle. 

11.Serve with natural yogurt or creme fraiche.


A guide to GM

August 31st, 2014


What does GM mean?

These are foods that have had specific changes directly introduced to their DNA. This is different from plant breeding, or cross-pollinating – which has been happening for centuries. GM uses genetic engineering to create extremely precise changes to the actual cellular structure of the plant.

These changes include creating plants that are, for example, herbicide resistant, so farmers can spray as much herbicide as necessary to kill other pests and plants without damaging the plant. Another example of a GM seed is known as “Bt”,  where the seed itself has been genetically altered to express a bacterial toxin, which is poisonous to insects and pests. So, this particular seed is basically systemically altered to include its own pesticide.

Take a look at Wiki for more info on Bt seeds and herbicide resistant seeds.

Initially, these GM “Bt” plants seemed to resist pests and insects – allowing for larger yields but in the past few years, some pests have already become resistant to the plant. For the first time in November 2009, Monsanto scientists were forced to admit that the Indian Bt cotton plant  was no longer resistant to the pink bollworm pest. Read The Hindu for more info.

Other seeds have been altered to include vitamins, like the Golden Rice seed which has 20 times more Beta-carotene than previous varieties. Check out the BBC’s report on the Golden Rice Seed.

Is it just plants or animals too?

Animals too have been genetically engineered to grow faster or produce more omega-3 fatty acids, for example. Check out Digital Journal for more info on GM salmon, which grows at twice the speed of a normal salmon and a Science Daily story which takes a look at the effects of GM fish if they escape into the wild.

What is the thinking behind GM?

There is much debate about how the world is going to feed itself, as our population increases. Scientists, researchers and environmentalists are split between believing that we need a scientific answer like GM in order to increase our food supply, while others believe there is no issue – beyond politics and logistics. Biotech companies, claim GM offers a clean green future to help feed the world but environmentalists and other scientists completely disagree, claiming these companies are merely interested in their profits.

Why are they so controversial?

GM foods first came on the market in the early 1990’s and have created controversy ever since. Pro GM scientists see them as a way to feed the world, while other scientists and environmentalists cite possible safety issues, ecological and health concerns. But one of the most contentious issues is that of intellectual property. The GM companies that manufacture these seeds own the patents on these seeds.

seedsaving thanks to find yourfeet on flickr right size!And yet, for thousands of years, farmers have saved seeds to replant the following year. But if you’re a farmer buying GM seeds from a biotech company, you’re not legally allowed to save those seeds. In essence, the company still owns them. And the farmer is forced to buy them again, year in year, year out – or bear the brunt of the legal eagles who watch out for farmers in breach of their seed contract.

It is this point that environmentalists have a big problem with. They accuse biotech companies of wanting to own the world’s seed supply. And they see GM as just the first step.

Who are these biotech companies?

Monsanto, Syngenta among others but by far the biggest player is Monsanto. Word has it they own 90% of the world’s market in GM seeds and they also own one of the world’s most popular herbicides –  Round Up. So the same company that’s selling the herbicide resistant seed, also owns the herbicide.

Monsanto writes…

Growers who purchase our patented seeds sign a Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement — an agreement that specifically addresses the obligations of both the grower and Monsanto and governs the use of the harvested crop.  The agreement specifically states that the grower will not save or sell the seeds from their harvest for further planting, breeding or cultivation.

Environmentalists and other critics accuse Monsanto of wanting to own the world’s seed supply but Monsanto claims it’s a clean, green biotech company that just wants to feed the world.

In an interview with Truthout, director of film, “The World According to Monsanto,” Marie Monique-Robin says…

Nowadays Monsanto is the world leader in biotechnology and the first seed company. Ninety percent of the GMOs grown in the world belong to it. During the last decade, the firm bought dozens of seed companies all over the world, pushing its transgenic seeds, which are patented. A patented seed means that the farmers who grow it may not keep a part of their crops to re-sow it the next year, as farmers used to do everywhere in the world. In the US and Canada, farmers who grow transgenic crops must sign a “technology agreement” – the no-sowing requirement is clearly expressed. If they don’t respect the agreement and violate the patent, they are harassed by the “gene police” and sued by Monsanto. Clearly, transgenic crops are just a tool to control the seed supply, which is the first link in the food chain, by forcing farmers to buy seeds each year.


Don’t GM seeds spread?

Like all seeds, GM seeds spread too, meaning that some farmers have discovered unwanted GM seeds contaminating their land – they are then, of course, forced to use them. In the US, many of those farmers have been investigated and prosecuted by Monsanto for patent theft – despite not being at all responsible for taking the seeds.

For more info on Monsanto suing farmers, check out this report from the US Center for Food Safety.

Has buying the seeds created problems for farmers?

Many farmers in India have also been forced to take out loans in order to pay for the new seeds. Check out this story on Combat Monsanto, that links GM seeds to a dramatic increase in farmer suicides.

What are the main issues for environmentalists?

According to the academic and environmentalist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, the biotech agenda for promoting GM is that the world will depend on them for every seed we plant and every crop we grow.

Although GM has been banned in the UK and Europe for the past 12 years, in recent months it looks as if the EFSA (European Food Standards Agency) has become more open to the idea, giving a GM potato and maize the green light to be grown and in July 2010, allowing member states to decide whether to accept or ban them. While in the UK, the Daily Mail reported finding illegal GM flax seeds in a loaf of M & S bread late in 2009.

Photo credit: Thanks to joka2000 on Fliickr.

Find out more


The  New York Times for an opinion from both pro and anti GM scientists and academics.

The EU decides to let member states make up their own mind about GM on the BBC and The Ecologist.

Britain’s pro-GM lobbying of the EU in the Guardian.

An interview with Marie Monique Robin, the journalist who directed “The World According to Monsanto,” on Truthout.

Monsanto’s website.

Syngenta’s website.

Wiki on GM.


“The World According to Monsanto”, on Debate Your Plate Video.

Act Now:

Check out our collection of GM campaigns from around the world on Debate Your Plate Act Now.

BPA – the bad chemical in our plastic food containers

August 15th, 2014

From water bottles to the lining of food tins, the chemical BPA is present in most plastics.

Canada and several US states have banned it in plastic baby bottles. But despite numerous studies showing the potential health risks both the EU and UK governments have dismissed concerns from both leading scientists and Breast Cancer UK, who want the chemical banned.

What is BPA?

Almost every piece of plastic containing food or drink has the chemical Bispjenol A also known as BPA. It’s used for drinking bottles, babies bottles, it’s in the lacquer lining of aluminium cans, and all kinds of plastic food containers. It’s even used by dentists for teeth composites and sealants.

It’s main job is to make plastic shatterproof, so, in the world of plastic manufacturing, it’s a an unbelievably useful ingredient. The trouble is, that since the 1930’s  it’s been linked to all sorts of health problems.

What kind of health problems has BPA been linked with?

BPA is what’s known as a suspected endocrine disruptor. This basically means it can mimic the body’s hormone system, potentially creating all sorts of reproductive health problems, with possible links to cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, (the IARC), hasn’t evaluated BPA. But in animal studies, like this one from the University School of Medicine in Boston, BPA has been shown to alter the development and tissue organisation of mammary glands.

Check out Breast Cancer UK’s film on BPA and Endocrine Disruptors and their response to the lack of government action.

BPA has also been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, heart beat disorders and fertility problems.

It has also been linked to mood related disorders, child developmental issues and even ADHD.

Harvard School of Public Health study…

plastic water bottles Klearchos KapoutsisAn interesting study was done recently by the Harvard School of Public Health and the National Centre for Environmental Health.

The research team wanted to see whether BPA was ingested by the body after drinking liquid stored in polycarbonate plastic.

77 students were asked to drink from stainless steel containers for one week and BPA polycarbonate plastic bottles the next.

Urine samples were taken throughout and the results showed that BPA concentrations increased by two-thirds, following the use of plastic bottles.

This research was the first of its kind to illustrate a definitive link between the chemical and the human body.

Research has shown the chemical is more potent when the plastic is warmed and can potentially leach from plastic containers and bottles after washing and boiling.

It’s this research that lead Canada to ban the substance from babies bottles in 2008, along with US states Minnesota and Connecticut.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently conducted a safety review on the chemical and admits to having “some concern”.

Find out more:


The latest BPA research, on Sciencefriday to find out what happens when the plastic is heated.

Check out this story on for some in depth info on baby bottles.

Read the Environmental Health Perspectives study, carried out last year.

2005 Japanese study, linking the chemical to miscarriage.

2008 study on child development issues National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Article in the Washington Post about the effects of BPA on monkeys.

What are the concerns of the US government – the FDA?

The recent FDA report, states the chemical is ‘of particular concern for fetuses, babies and young children.’ This means babies bottles, toddler cups, and even the plastic lining inside glass baby food jars could be a problem.

The American Chemistry Council however, insist BPA is completely safe and cite a number of studies to support their views.

Find out more:


  • The FDA report showing “some concern.”
  • Check out this 2005 study which looks at BPA exposure in the womb.

What is happening in the UK?

On this side of the pond, however,  it’s a different story. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) remain convinced of its safety, despite mounting concern in North America.

Breast Cancer UK has recently launched a campaign, along with a number of influential UK scientists, challenging our government’s  views – which are in sharp contrast to the opinions of  health authorities in the US and Canada.

The FSA responded to a letter sent by some of the UK’s leading scientists with a mere five paragraphs, reaffirming their view that “exposure of UK consumers to BPA from all sources, including food contact materials, was well below levels considered harmful”.

Find out more


Breast Cancer UK’s report on BPA

The Ecologist’s dismay over EU refusal to ban the chemical in baby bottles.


Join the Breast Cancer UK, in their recently launched “No More BPA” campaign.

How can I avoid BPA?

recycling 7 symbol

Watch out for this symbol on your plastic containers: this means the plastic does contain BPA.

Numbers 1,2,4,5, and 6 do not contain it – but number 3 might.

There are also plenty of baby bottle manufacturers who manufacture BPA free bottles, including Born Free, Medela, and Green to Grow.

And to say no to plastic bottles on the run. Check out our feature on the top ten BPA free bottles and food containers.

Photo credit: Brokinhrt2,  Klearchos Kapoutis.

The Little Book of Shocking Food Facts

August 10th, 2014

If you ever needed proof it’s time to take on the global food industry, here it is. A snap shot of the industrial food chain from some of the world’s greatest authorities, The Little Book of Shocking Food facts, will start a quiet revolution amongst your coffee table books. Glossy, visually arresting and, well, shocking.






And that’s just the start. Published by Fiell, you can order The Little Book of Shocking Food Facts on Amazon.

Brixton market: Federation Coffee

August 5th, 2014


After living in Brixton for 10 years, the covered market is coming to life.

Now that it’s been saved from developers (by becoming a listed building), it seems every time we pop our heads in, there’s a new shop, bar or restaurant opening up. We thought we’d introduce you to a few of our favourites.

First up is Federation Coffee.

This has become our favourite place to start the day.

The coffee really is the best for miles around and the cakes are addictive.

My favourite is what’s called a friand. A blueberry friand. I’d never heard of it but it’s melt in the mouth delicious. Kind of like a muffin but lighter and smaller than a cake so you don’t feel too guilty having one every time you have a coffee (!)

I’ve been nagging them for weeks for the recipe. And they’ve been big enough to share it. So watch out for it tomorrow.

The best thing about Federation, though, is if you do like your coffee, these guys really know their stuff.

Ex- kiwis, George Wallace (left) and Nick Coates (right), set up Federation almost a year ago and are part of what George describes as London’s Australasian coffee take-over. As he puts it: “There’s around 30 fantastic cafes in London who are probably leading the world in good coffee, but there’s more of a coffee culture back home.”

And he’s not just talking about great coffee but boutique roasting too. “In New Zealand, there are around 200 coffee roasters – probably people just starting up in their garage – but there’s no-where near that in London,” he says.

Both guys were fed up with travelling into Soho’s Flat White, another Australasian cafe for good coffee and thought – why not open their own? And so, in February of this year, they were one of the first shops to open up in the market.

These self-confessed coffee geeks are so into quality control, they taste their coffee every hour or so just to make sure it’s up to scratch. They only buy beans from small suppliers – so they know exactly what they’re getting.

And they’ve just purchased their own coffee roaster too – so you might just see Federation coffee at a few more places around town.

Check them out:

Federation-coffee-mapFederation Coffee,

Unit 46, Brixton Village Market, Granville, Cold Harbour Lane, SW98PS

Opening hours are: 8am-5pm Mon to Fri; 10am-5pm Sat; 9.30-4 Sun



Anyone fancy a grasshopper?

July 31st, 2014

Fancy a locust? How about an ant?

According to insect lover Marcel Dicke, that’s just what we should all be doing.

In this fascinating Ted Talk, his message is clear: eat insects for both health and the environment.

He reckons once you get over the squeamish factor, they can compete with meat in both flavour, nutrition – and eco-friendliness.

Photo credit: Thanks to Panayiotis Filippou on Flickr.

Find out more


For another squeamish tale, check out our story on breastmilk cheese.