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Eco-champion wins NHS approval over meat-free menus

PUBLISHED: 14:33 12 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:55 07 September 2010

Katie Davies CALLS for Camden Council to cut meat from all its meals are gaining strength as the NHS has advised hospitals to drop it from their menus. Last year the council s eco-champion Cllr Alexis Rowell said the amount of meat served in canteen meals

Katie Davies

CALLS for Camden Council to cut meat from all its meals are gaining strength as the NHS has advised hospitals to drop it from their menus.

Last year the council's eco-champion Cllr Alexis Rowell said the amount of meat served in canteen meals should be cut because of the carbon footprint in its production.

Despite the suggestions being laughed off in the borough, the NHS has now advised hospitals to adopt the approach nationally. And because of that move, Cllr Rowell is reinvigorating his campaign for Camden to go veggie.

He said: "I am renewing calls for Camden to put less meat and better meat on its menus.

"Since I tried to persuade the council to reduce the amount of meat on their menus for health and environmental reasons, both the NHS and environmental activists have supported my position.

"I hope the executive will now rethink it because it is clear that if we hope to reduce emissions and improve health we need this."

Last time Cllr Rowell raised the issue he was bombarded with criticism from those in the meat industry and on the council, with one councillor nicknaming him Nut Roast.

The idea, which came from the sustainability taskforce group Cllr Rowell heads, was blocked by the Conservatives who share power with the Lib Dems at the Town Hall.

But Cllr Rowell now thinks the policy is stronger.

"Last time the Conservatives blocked this and others made out I was some nutty vegetarian which the meat industry went to town with," he said.

"I am not a vegetarian but I think we should eat less meat. Fifty years ago we would eat one roast a week and not eat meat two or three times a day.

"The Food Health Organisation of the United Nations estimates that the livestock industry is responsible for 18 per cent of the world's carbon emissions because of the fossil fuels used to grow grain to feed animals, to transport them and to refrigerate meat, particularly in supermarkets which have open cabinets."

The NHS' meat-free recommendations were released a fortnight ago. Patients are to be offered more meatless options to help the organisation cut its carbon footprint.

The report NHS Carbon Reduction Strategy for England states: "The NHS is one of the largest purchasers and providers of food in the UK.

"The NHS will take more systematic action in procuring and producing sustainable, healthy and low carbon food for patients, visitors and staff. The actions needed to develop a more sustainable food system in the NHS whilst maintaining nutritional value include the use of seasonally adjusted menus, increased use of sustainably sourced fish and a reduction in the reliance on meat, dairy and eggs."

However, Cllr Rowell has been warned this policy is still heading nowhere in Camden. Conservative health boss Cllr Martin Davies said: "My opposition to this comes from the fact that I want people to have choice.

"I don't want us to say what people can and can't do. There should be meat options and non-meat options so if people want they can choose to not eat meat for environmental reasons.

"The NHS' decision is down to them but people who are in hospital normally need to eat well to build themselves up - my primary focus would be on ensuring that and I wouldn't want people's health comprised as a result.

"I hope health isn't being compromised for the sake of the environment.


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