Archive for November, 2008

A Letter to Oxfordshire County Council Education Services

November 22, 2008

Ms X
Head of Adult Education Services
Oxfordshire County Council

22 November 2008

Dear Ms X

I was interested to read the section on complementary therapies in the latest brochure of Oxfordshire County Council adult education services. I hope you are willing to answer a few questions.

A frequent criticism of practitioners of complementary therapies is that they often claim to be able to cure particular medical conditions even when there is no evidence to support what they are saying. For example, on page 42 you are offering a course in kinesiology a belief system which has no basis in science. What steps does Oxfordshire County Council take to ensure tutors on complementary medicine courses are not making false or fraudulent claims about the treatments they offer? Indeed, how do you recruit tutors?

You are doubtless aware of the case of Dawn Page who suffered brain damage after visiting the Oxfordshire nutritional therapist, Barbara Nash. (See to read the full story.) I note that you are offering courses led by a local nutritional therapist. If any harm were to befall a student following advice given by one of your tutors the council might possibly be held liable. At the very least I think you should consider adding a disclaimer to the courses, something along the lines of: “Our complementary medicine courses are for information and entertainment only. If you have a medical problem please see a GP or nurse at your local health centre.”

Finally, I should very much like to know how much public subsidy is being used to support these courses. Presumably the true cost per person of, for example, “Crystals & Herbs for Health” on page 41 is not £33.

I very much look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Lee Thacker


An Offer to Serve Up Some Food to you on Sunday 16 November ….

November 8, 2008

What celebrity nutritionists often seem to forget is the social justice aspect of food. For example, ex-professor Holford made no mention of Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 in messages he sent to his supporters at the start of this year. It is almost as if they are unaware of the toil that goes in to producing food. Possibly they do not care.

In Britain less than 5% of the population works on the land. Despite the best lobbying efforts of the farming community food production is probably not something most of us consider very often. However, in some parts of the world livelihoods depend on agriculture. One example of this is Palestine. The olive tree dominates the landscape of the West Bank. Agriculture, particularly olives, supports half the population. Olive oil has become very popular in northern Europe. The British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is very fond of it. In one our major supermarkets you can see his smiling face on bottles of olive oil in the same way that you can see Patrick Holford’s face on plastic bottles containing vitamin pills. The ex-professor also endorses Nairns oat cakes. (Despite that I am still buying them!) Clearly Mr Oliver and Mr Holford have no problem reaching consumers.

Olive farmers in the West Bank struggle to reach international markets. See this article for more information about their problems. Five years ago some young British volunteers went to help and observe the olive harvest. They were asked whether there might be a market for Palestinian olive oil in the United Kingdom. Initially, 200 bottles were brought back. The oil called Zaytoun – from the Arabic for olive – proved to be very popular and in 2007 more than £1million worth of produce was sold up and down Britain. You may be asking how you have missed the bottles in your local Sainsbury’s or Tesco. The simple answer is that most of it has been distributed by either volunteers or Fairtrade organisations such as Traidcraft and Equal Exchange. I bought a few cases for Basingstoke Summer Fete. It proved to be very popular and before long we were having a pallet delivered every two or three months and buying more than £4000 worth of stock a year. Click here to find your nearest stockist. Hopefully, the oil will be appearing in the Co-op in time for Fairtrade Fortnight 2009.

Next week I shall be leaving Basingstoke behind for the bright lights of London. Cultural organisation Hafla is putting on a bit of a party in Kent House, the home of Westminster Synagogue. According to their website:

Hafla is a London-based organisation creating cultural events, celebrating a vision of peace and prosperity in the Middle East. We bring together Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs and Jews and all people who are committed to creating peace in this part of the world.

The event takes place on Sunday 16 November 2008 and is called Cooking from the Heart and is

A celebration of food and culture from across the Middle East.

I’ll be there promoting Sindyanna of Galilee an organisation of Jewish and Palestinian women from northern Israel that markets the agricultural produce of the local Palestinian community. At the same time I’ll be preparing an optimally nutritious dish. Hope to see you there. If not next time you pick up some food think about how it was produced ….