The fourth in our series of public debates was held on Tuesday 9 March 2010. "Are we what we eat?" investigates our relationship with food: what we eat, what we buy, what we cook, and the role of the food industry and government in shaping our attitudes to food. The event was chaired by Mr Geoff Watts, freelance writer and broadcaster on science and medicine. Listen to our speakers from the links below.
Anne Murcott identifies a common and persistent concern that the practice of eating meals together as a family is on the decline. However, looking at research on eating, it seems that there is more continuity than change in our mealtime behaviour. Why then do we worry that we are eating fewer meals as families, and what purpose could this serve? Anne Murcott is Special Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham.
Professor Yeomans argues that how much we eat, and our experience of hunger, is determined more by external factors than by how full our stomachs are or how much energy we have consumed. Results of experiments on eating demonstrate that our taste preferences are determined by our past experience of the effects of what we have consumed, and by our expectations based on what we have been told about a food. As food becomes more readily and more plentifully available, so the risk increases of over-eating and obesity. Martin Yeomans is Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex.
The Food Standards Agency relies on news media in its campaigns, and can point to successes in reducing salt consumption and better understanding of date labelling of food. However, there are also instances of inaccurate and spurious reporting of stories about food and its effects on health. Terrence Collis concludes with suggestions for improving the quality of reporting on food and health, and remarks on the good track record of the FSA. Terrence Collis is Director of Communications at the Food Standards Agency.
More myths and realties events
Myths and Realities public debates are jointly sponsored by the British Library, Economic and Social Research Council and the Academy of Social Sciences.