Chris Bavin and Gloria Hunniford explore claims and messages about food. Gloria examines claims that so-called 'free from' foods might not be the healthy option they first seem.
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Could it really be true that some of the most innocent looking groceries
in your kitchen cupboards are actually superfoods,
-or indeed that others might not be safe at all?
-There's a question.
But before you rethink everything in your weekly shop,
we've been finding out how much truth there is to the claims
that might make you nervous about what's in it.
Every day, we're bombarded with conflicting information
about our favourite foods.
One minute we're told something's good for us, the next it's not,
and we're left feeling guilty about what we're eating.
But we've been wading through the confusion
to separate the scare stories from the truth,
so you can choose your food with confidence.
Hello and welcome to Food - Truth Or Scare.
This is a series that cuts through all those confusing and conflicting
claims about the food we eat.
Now, today's programme is about products that you might well have
in your cupboard and think nothing about using every day,
until some new report comes along that makes you see them
-in a very different light.
And whether it's a scare story about a kitchen staple you're now worried
about using again or a good news story
about a spice that's suddenly been found to have superpowers,
those reports can really make us question
if we're doing the right thing.
And while getting to the bottom of stories like this isn't always easy,
by the end of today's programme,
you should be confident about which foods
it's safe to keep putting in your shopping trolley.
Coming up, why the gluten and dairy-free alternatives
you might think are a healthy choice could be just the opposite.
They can be lower in B vitamins, they can be lower in iron.
They can be higher in fats, higher in sugars
and higher overall in calories.
And do we need to worry about reports claiming
our breakfast table honey almost certainly contains pesticides?
They're designed to kill insects,
so we shouldn't be surprised that they're poisonous to honeybees.
And, actually, they are phenomenally toxic.
Now, if there's one corner of the supermarket that's changed more than
any other in the past few years, it's the "free from" aisle.
Up until recently, gluten-free, dairy-free and other foods
made without ingredients that might just trigger some allergies
took up literally a couple of shelves,
but now they take up whole aisles
and the market for free from products is absolutely booming.
Many more people buy these products not because they have a genuine
allergy or intolerance,
they do it because they think it's the healthier option.
But some reports claim that unless you have a genuine allergy,
free from foods might actually be an unhealthy choice.
So, as someone who has a free from son in the family,
I went to find out if those claims are actually true.
One in 50 Brits have a genuine food allergy,
but well over a third say they're on a specialised diet.
My son Paul is one of them, and when he revealed he was intolerant
to gluten more than ten years ago, I have to say, it was news to me.
It was just thinking about it, Paul, you know,
I lived with you for all those years
and I never knew that you were intolerant to food.
Maybe you just were allergic to all my food or something, I don't know!
No, all your food was fantastic, Mother, for all those years.
Especially all the meals that came out of cans, they were wonderful!
So, at what point did you discover or get the feeling
that you wanted to go gluten-free?
I think it first happened probably about ten, 12 years ago.
And it wasn't that I went to the doctor -
somebody had said to me, "I think you might be gluten intolerant,"
so I just cut it out for a few weeks and then felt completely different
within a very quick period of time.
Paul doesn't have coeliac disease,
in which the body has a serious reaction to gluten,
and has never been officially diagnosed by his doctor,
but even so, he says he feels much better when he hasn't eaten gluten.
So, when you decided then that you'd go gluten-free,
what immediate impact did that have?
There was definitely an instant feeling
of just not having bloatedness.
If I ate a normal sandwich,
within ten minutes I'd feel uncomfortable.
Paul's wife Lisa and their children don't suffer from the same symptoms,
but they have ended up eating less gluten than they might otherwise.
So, presumably, then, when it comes to, like,
in the house and somebody decides to go gluten-free...
-..that has a real impact on what you cook, what you make.
I don't really even think about it.
There are so many products now that are sort of ready-made for
a gluten-free diet, but, really, we sort of manage it with vegetables.
In fact, it's probably harder when we go out
and you actually say to people, "Have you got a gluten-free option?"
Whereas, at home it's just now easy, isn't it?
Paul and Lisa are in very good company.
The UK's gluten-free industry alone
is worth nearly half a billion pounds.
It's just one of many so-called free from foods,
specifically designed products that do without some common allergens
like wheat, eggs, soya or dairy.
And while they're essential for people who have a genuine allergy,
the free from market is booming,
thanks in part to customers like Paul who have diagnosed themselves.
But while they're doing it to feel better,
many reports say that going free from
when you don't need to might actually be bad for your health.
"Wasting millions every year on gluten-free products
"that do little or nothing to improve their health."
So, how can taking something out make that food worse for you?
Well, I've come to see what goes into perhaps the most popular
gluten-free product on the market, bread.
All the baking is done at the back of the shop, is it? Yeah.
I've asked artisan baker Clare to make me two loaves,
one with and one without gluten,
and straight away it's obvious that the regular loaf is the simplest.
It has yeast, flour, water, salt.
You're not using any additives at all.
That centuries-old recipe doesn't change much
for mass-produced loaves either.
They'll contain more preservatives but still the same simple
ingredients - yeast, flour, water and salt.
But it's a different story for the gluten-free loaf.
So, what have you put into the gluten-free?
OK, so, what we've done for you here
is we've used buckwheat flour, we've used...
Actually, the buckwheat comes from the rhubarb family, doesn't it?
Exactly. So, it's not even a grain, it's actually a plant.
We've got brown rice flour, we've got potato flour,
and we've got molasses.
The molasses, presumably, would be the sugar content here, would it?
That's right, yes. Because there is no gluten in any of these products,
when you actually mix it, it is a very sloppy dough.
Would the yeast make something puff up?
The yeast makes it puff up,
but what makes this light and airy is actually the gluten in flour.
Ah, so, when you don't have the gluten...
-..then it's a flatter bread?
Exactly right. And when you cut into it, it is incredibly dense,
so your little... You're going to have very small air pockets,
whereas if you cut into this, you'll have lovely, beautiful air pockets.
Apart from producing a denser loaf with more sugar,
Clare's gluten-free bread also contains more fat than her standard
version because buckwheat flour and brown rice flour
contain around double the fat of regular wheat flour.
But your typical mass-produced gluten-free white sliced loaf
contains even more fat than that -
on average nearly three times more than a regular loaf.
So to duplicate a loaf of bread like that,
the way they do that is by adding in other ingredients.
If you were going to a manufacturer to try and get the lift,
to try and make it look bubbly, they will add more things.
And a scientist somewhere has obviously developed something
that's going to make it so there are lots of bubbles in it
to try and make it beautiful.
Would you eat the gluten-free?
-Why is that?
Mainly because I love bread and I don't have a coeliac allergy.
Whether it's gluten-free bread, pasta or pizza,
the free from products we looked at contain more fat than their
mainstream counterpart, which might come as a surprise to some.
So, on this table we have everything to do with gluten-free and on this
one is what you would deem normal food.
So, which one do you think is the more healthy table?
-Unanimous amongst your family?
-And why is that?
Because there's gluten taken out of the food.
So, which do you think is healthier?
-I would say there's a lot more wheat in a lot of this...
..and obviously being the wheat-free I'd probably say that
that is the more healthier.
There does seem to be a perception that products which take gluten and
dairy out are healthier
than those which don't.
And 26-year-old fitness fanatic Christina
has signed up to that message 100%.
Her doctor has told her that she's not intolerant to gluten or dairy,
but she still avoids them because she says it makes her feel better.
Last year, I found myself waking up in the mornings
feeling very tired after a full night's sleep.
I took to he internet and a lot of things were suggesting that having
a gluten and dairy-free diet would make me feel better.
I came off dairy about six months ago,
and then I came off gluten around about three months ago.
I felt the effects almost immediately.
So, within a few days, I felt so much different.
I felt back to how I used to be, my old self, with lots of energy,
full of life.
While both Christina and my son Paul say going gluten-free has made them
feel better, there are lots of stories which say free from
isn't actually good for us.
So, Christina and I are hoping that dietician Priya Tew
can tell us if those reports are right.
So, Christina, I gather that you haven't been intolerant
to certain foods for that long?
I knew for some months that I wanted to give up dairy and gluten.
It wasn't until I was in a position where I was living in my own
accommodation that I had the opportunity to do it.
I discovered at the bakery that gluten-free bread
can have more fat and sugar than the regular kind,
but Priya says it's not just what's been added to these products
that cause concern, but what's often missing as well.
Some people have a gluten sensitivity
and do need those products,
but when you compare them to the products that contain gluten,
the gluten-free ones are lower in fibre,
they quite often don't contain a wholegrain,
and we know there's a link between wholegrains
and your risk of heart disease, type two diabetes
and certain cancers.
So, wholegrains, we want people to be eating more of those, not less.
They can be lower in B vitamins, they can be lower in iron,
they can be higher in fat,
higher in sugars and higher overall in calories.
Although it can seem like it's a healthy choice
to go gluten-free, the foods that are out there on the shelves
are actually less nutritious.
And it's not to say that a gluten-free diet can't be healthy,
it's just to say if you're relying on those
pre-processed packaged foods in the supermarket,
then they're not going to be as good for you as people think they are.
Essential nutrients are missing in other free from foods as well.
Dairy-free milk alternatives like soya,
oat or almond milk contain much less iodine than cows' milk,
which some headlines claim poses a health risk.
Now, I have an underactive thyroid,
so I know that foods with iodine in them would be quite good for me.
So, iodine is definitely one of these lesser talked about nutrients,
but it is really important.
We know that it plays a role in boosting metabolism,
it's also really important in development for brains for children.
Can you give me a measurement about how much iodine you should get from
your food every day?
So, the general population want to be having 150 micrograms
of iodine a day. A glass of cow's milk can be between
50 and 100 micrograms of iodine, so you're getting between
one third to two thirds just from one glass,
-but with the plant-based milk, it's two micrograms of iodine.
-And you're supposed to get 150 a day?
-That's a lot.
-A huge difference.
-Does that surprise you?
-That does surprise me.
Because, obviously, an underactive thyroid,
it's going to make you quite lethargic, isn't it?
Most plant-based milk alternatives are fortified with added vitamins
and minerals, but few contain added iodine,
and if you choose one of those, you could be missing out.
Christina had no idea this could be the case,
especially because she'd been feeling so much better
since she cut out gluten and dairy.
So to see if her new diet is lacking in essentials
or packing some unexpected extras,
she's been keeping a food diary for the last week,
which Priya has been poring over.
I'm not surprised that you're actually feeling better
because for a lot of people,
when they decide to go gluten-free and dairy-free,
what it means is, they cut out a lot of the convenience foods
and instead they change to making things more from scratch
and making things at home.
So overall, their diet does become a lot healthier.
And that's what you do, you cook from fresh now, do you?
Yes, yeah, everything. Everything is fresh, yes.
So that's pretty good.
So the transformation Christina's feeling
could have nothing to do with gluten or dairy,
but it has meant Christina's diet is lacking some essentials like fibre.
You seem quite reliant on things like sweet potato and potato.
So having more wholegrains like quinoa, for example,
they're going to give you more fibre and they're going to just give you
that range of nutrition that we want to be getting into your diet.
While there are ways to get wholegrains into your diet
and still stay gluten-free, Christina knows she's not intolerant
of gluten so could easily get those wholegrains from bread and cereals.
Priya's not convinced that gluten and dairy were what caused Christina
to feel tired and bloated in the first place.
So she's got a proposition.
If you were open to putting the dairy and the gluten back in
for a couple of weeks, it would be a really good test to see
is it those that have caused the problem
or is it actually because I've started cooking more at home myself
and I've changed overall the quality and the nutrition of my diet -
which is it that's giving me the effects?
Are you happy to try that?
Yeah, I'm absolutely happy to try that.
Over the next few days,
Christina slowly reintroduces gluten and dairy into her diet.
But I'm afraid it's not all plain sailing.
She experiences a common, albeit temporary, side-effect.
So I've just had a latte and my stomach is in a lot of pain.
Not the best result that I was hoping for.
Right now, not feeling amazing.
I'm not 100% sure whether this is going to work
but I'm certainly willing to give it a try again.
Although it takes her body a few days to adjust to dairy and gluten,
the symptoms soon calm down and Christina can work on
reintroducing those crucial wholegrains which contain gluten.
Just cooked up some pearl barley risotto for lunches this week.
Yum! Just done a bit of training.
Feeling really, really good today.
I'm trying my pearl barley again to see how I feel because I'm feeling
really positive today.
Here we go.
A month after Christina started to reintroduce gluten and dairy,
Priya is calling to see if she's noticed a difference
and if she'll be sticking to the new diet.
The first meal, I thought, "Oh-oh, no,
"I've got a bit of a stomach-ache."
And then I sort of thought, "Hang on a sec, there's no bloating,
"there's no other symptoms. And I feel absolutely great.
I really didn't enjoy being off of gluten and dairy.
I did it because it made me feel better at the time
and I feel like that period of two months
where I was off of gluten was enough.
And I absolutely love being back on all this food, absolutely love it.
Oh, that's great news.
But there's a twist.
Even though Christina's symptoms haven't returned,
now she's eating gluten and dairy again,
Priya says that doesn't mean that they weren't the cause
of her tiredness and bloating in the first place.
It could have been Christina's body simply telling her
to just cut down on those foods, not cut them out altogether.
So everybody's got a tolerance level of gluten and dairy and it may just
be that you'd hit that level and then gone over the top of it
and that's why you were experiencing those symptoms at that time.
So do you think that having the two months off from now on,
that that's going to be enough?
I think if you have another flare-up and it's a one-off occasion,
then perhaps the next day, cut back little bit.
Don't go back to completely cutting these foods out of your diet because
it may be that you can't have those foods three meals a day
but you could have them two meals a day, for example.
Being back on all of this food means I can go out and enjoy life
a bit more so I'm definitely going to continue on this path.
-Thank you very much.
-You're very welcome.
If Christina had sought professional advice when she'd originally
experienced these symptoms instead of just cutting out gluten and dairy
altogether, the cause could have been properly diagnosed
and a dietician would have recommended a course of action
that wouldn't have resulted in her losing out nutritionally.
So the official advice for anyone who thinks they may be intolerant
is to get checked out because your symptoms may be masking
something else altogether. And I have to say, that's advice
that I'm certainly going to pass on to Paul.
Now, all week we're putting some of the latest fashionable food crazes
under the microscope to find out
if they're really all they're cracked up to be.
Well, Chris has been prowling around
and I'm wondering what you've brought. What is that?
Well, I've got you a turmeric latte, Gloria.
I've never heard of turmeric latte but I tell you what,
it looks disgusting to me, anyway.
Well, it's actually the turmeric itself which is now being credited
with so many health benefits,
it's become one of the latest so-called superfoods.
But not ones to swallow a superfood claim whole,
we've been finding out how much of what we've been told is true.
Turmeric, TUME-eric, however you say it,
it's been used in cooking for centuries.
But in the last few years, it's hit the big-time,
going from kitchen staple to miracle cure.
-I love turmeric.
-Popular as a superfood.
I had turmeric on my eggs this morning.
Oh, my goodness, that is foul!
Thanks to some incredible sounding superpowers,
we're adding it to everything from porridge to lattes.
I've heard that it's supposed to be very good for your immune system.
I drink turmeric every morning in a cup of tea.
And I discovered that my pain is not as awful as it used to be.
I take turmeric every morning in...
A spoonful of turmeric in warm water
and mix some black pepper in with it.
Turmeric's been linked with so many conditions,
it's almost easier to pick one it's not said to help.
And dietician Lydia Patel says this might be one fad
that's based in fact.
Turmeric is heralded as the new super spice.
It's been linked with claims of helping prevent heart disease,
stopping cancer, helping with Alzheimer's,
and to prevent depression and boost your mood,
helping irritable bowel syndrome and all sorts of things.
The reason why there's so many claims
is that there's a bioactive ingredient
in turmeric called curcumin.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties
and also is an antioxidant.
The benefits it's claimed to have are seemingly endless.
But how much do these people think you need to reap those rewards?
I would think you need to take turmeric about daily,
maybe a teaspoon, I guess. I'm not too sure.
Maybe two of those.
Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple.
Turmeric is one of the most studied super spices out there.
However, a lot of the studies that have been done
have been done in the lab and they've been done on animals,
so we can't just extrapolate the findings
from those studies into humans.
And a lot of the research has actually found that you need very,
very high doses of the active ingredient curcumin
for it actually to have a positive effect on your health.
A teaspoon of turmeric contains less than one tenth of a gram
of curcumin, and while some studies suggest just over three times that
might have an effect, others say you'd need to eat
the equivalent of more than 45 teaspoons of turmeric every day.
OK, so, I guess I've not been getting the benefits
that I thought I was getting!
But that doesn't mean turmeric is a fad we should forget about,
because while the benefits aren't yet scientifically proven,
the anecdotal evidence is strong
and there don't appear to be any downsides.
So if you like it, and you think it works for you,
there's no need to stop.
Still to come, Danny Crates puts duty before his taste buds
to investigate claims that yeast extract might prevent dementia.
They did that for a month?
Now, while there are some foods that I'm not surprised to see scary
reports around, every now and again there's one that really comes out
of the blue and that's just what happened last autumn
when I heard about this story.
So, look, we've got...
And I was so surprised and shocked to read this one...
And scientists tested 198 samples around the globe, actually.
But, you see, I always regard honey as being pure,
about being healthy, about being mending.
Lots of people use it for medicinal purposes
and my son absolutely loves it.
But after I saw those reports, I set off to find out
if there's more to this story than it first seems.
We spend over £100 million a year on honey.
-Yes, I do like honey.
-I like everything about it.
It seems to be a nice and natural sort of product.
I sometimes use it as a sweetener instead of sugar.
I use honey for mainly medication
when I've got a bit of a sore throat.
I eat it on toast, mainly, or on my porridge.
I probably get through about two or three jars a month.
My bees produce it so I eat it all the time.
But things might not be quite
so harmonious in the hives.
A new study of the neonicotinoid group
of insecticides has shown they're present
in 75% of all honey produced around the world.
Last autumn, a global study discovered that honey from bees
on every continent,
except Antarctica, contained pesticides.
Which weren't just harmful to the bees,
but could be dangerous to humans as well.
So do we need to worry about the honey we eat?
I've enlisted the help of biologist and leading bee expert
Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex.
-How are you, all right?
-I'm good, I'm good.
-What have we got here?
-So, this is a honey bee hive.
So normally you see them in a man-made box,
but naturally they'd nest in a hole in the tree,
-so this is kind of simulating that.
-Let's have a look.
So this is the cone, it's made from wax by the bees,
and that's where they store the honey that they collect.
Bees can forage over five miles from their hives,
which means in almost any part of the country,
there is a chance they will come into contact
with harmful pesticides.
So in terms of the honey,
why are we finding so many traces of pesticides in it?
So we use lots of pesticides in the world these days,
particularly in farming,
most crops get treated with maybe 20 different pesticides.
And bees collect nectar and then they concentrate it up
to turn into honey. It's essentially a kind of concentrated soup
of all the nectars from across the landscape,
some of which inevitably contain pesticides.
As well as making it into the honey,
commonly used pesticides can be fatal to bees.
They're designed to kill insects,
so we shouldn't be surprised that they're poisonous to honey bees.
And, actually, they are phenomenally toxic.
If you had a teaspoon of one of these chemicals,
it would be enough to kill 1.25 billion honey bees.
So you'd be forgiven for worrying about the news
those pesticides are in three quarters of all honey.
But that's the global average.
In Europe, it was found in 79%.
How did the rest of the world fare?
Mostly a tiny bit better, actually.
So best of all is South America, which is down here, 57%.
-65 was Oceania, so Australia, New Zealand.
-Not too bad, compared to us.
Then we've got 80% for Asia, getting worse.
And then worst of all, North America, 86%.
So pretty much every jar, nine out of ten nearly.
So only 57% of honey from South America
was found to contain pesticides, as compared to 86
in North American honey. I know which one I would buy.
But Professor Goulson says it's not always that simple.
A lot of the honey that you might buy off-the-shelf is blended,
so it's actually purchased from all over the world
and mixed up in a big vat somewhere.
So just because you're eating honey in Europe or the UK,
doesn't necessarily mean that the honey has come from that continent
-or that country?
-No, not at all.
This is the kind of typical one which is blended honey.
It says, "From the EU and non-EU sources."
Which isn't really terribly specific.
But you've got no way of knowing?
No way at all of knowing where that's been or where it's come from.
In fact, when we checked the 25 different types of honey on sale
in a leading supermarket, 13 of them were blends
from a number of different countries and seven said
they were from a mix of EU and non-EU sources.
Basically, they could have come from anywhere.
And if you think that choosing a honey you know is farmed
in a specific place will avoid pesticides, you are wrong.
Even New Zealand's famous Manuka honey
can't be guaranteed to be pesticide-free.
Manuka is a shrub that only grows in that part of the world.
To my knowledge, that shrub isn't actually treated
with any pesticides.
Who knows what grows next to the Manuka and no-one can tell the bees,
"You can only feed on that one plant."
Organic honey could be a way to go, couldn't it?
Well, it will probably have fewer pesticides in it because some of the
bees will have been feeding on an organic farm.
But the sad truth is,
they can't guarantee that it's completely free of pesticides,
not unless they've got a vast organic farm
and certainly in Britain, there is no farm big enough.
So whether we buy raw, cream, branded or blended honey,
there's no way to guarantee you won't find pesticides in the jar,
even though there's no mention of it on the label.
So will knowing that pesticides are likely to be in our honey change the
opinion of shoppers at Tooting Market?
I've got some different types of honey here,
-would you like to try some?
-OK, yeah, I'd love to.
-Yes, love to.
-But before you do...
If I told you that of all the European honeys tested,
79% of European honeys came back as showing traces of pesticides...
-Yes, it would change my mind.
-Yeah, that would turn me off.
It concerns me if anything has pesticides.
If you had one which didn't have that, I would try that one.
But while that's understandable, are they overreacting?
Just how high are the levels of pesticides
in the honey and are they as harmful to us
as the headlines suggest?
The good news is that the amounts involved are pretty small,
the concentrations are low.
They're well below the levels that are deemed to be safe for human
consumption in the short-term.
There are concerns about what the possible long-term exposure
to pesticides does to us, and nobody really knows for sure that
that doesn't do us harm.
But we can safely have honey on toast without worrying
-about our health?
-I'm going to carry on eating honey.
So that's good news for honey lovers everywhere.
The reason there are pesticides in our honey
is because the vast majority of crops in the UK
are treated with chemicals.
While it would be nice to think that we could reduce the levels used,
farmer Andrew Ward say that that's unrealistic
because of consumer demand.
Well, if I wasn't to use pesticides at all,
the food supply would decrease. It's as simple as that.
I mean, pesticides enables us to produce the maximum amount of food
sustainably while looking after nature and the environment.
If farmers stopped using pesticides,
experts say their harvest would reduce by up to 70%.
Yes, we can produce organic food but the yield of organic food is a lot
less than the yield we produce here.
So the shopping bill would be a lot dearer without pesticides
because there wouldn't be so much food available.
So if almost all food crops are treated with pesticides,
and are likely to contain some level of them,
then could we end up eating a dangerous amount
through the combination of all those foods?
Well, I'm about to ask someone who can answer just that.
But first, he's asked me to pick up five products I think might contain
high levels of pesticides.
Lettuce, I'm definitely going to pick lettuce.
These are incredibly popular with bugs and insects
looking for a free lunch.
So I'm getting cured meat.
I'm sure the pig would have eaten something that had pesticides in it.
I think apples will have traces of pesticides.
I'm going with leeks.
So I've picked pasta.
Pasta's made from wheat, wheat's got to have pesticides, right?
With that lot in the bag, I'm off to grill Dr Paul Brantom,
a specialist in toxicology who chairs
the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food,
or PRIF for short.
Every year, they test thousands of samples of food
they expect will show traces of pesticides.
And a surprising number of samples didn't contain any.
If you look at the analytical results,
close to 50% of the foods that we analyse show no levels
of pesticide residue at all.
-None at all.
Now, while it's impossible to say why that was the case,
the tests were only done on foods that were grown or farmed
using pesticides. And almost half the time,
every trace of those chemicals had disappeared
by the time they hit the supermarket shelves.
So, what of the five products I picked up?
Well, of the 90 samples of meat products PRIF tested,
only eight tested positive for pesticides.
A quarter of the pasta and just over a quarter of the leeks
The lettuce, which I was certain would have some pesticide residue,
did show traces two thirds of the time.
And 90% of the apples tested by PRIF contained pesticide residues.
But, crucially, every single one of those was under what's known
as the maximum residue level or MRL.
That's the maximum level that you think is safe for us to eat?
It's not set as a safe level,
it's the maximum amount that should be found
in the food if the pesticide is being used in accord
with what is called good agricultural practice.
You can exceed the MRL and it still will be safe.
Right, OK. So all of these products and many, many others,
although have come into contact with pesticides,
-are perfectly safe for human consumption?
We take a great deal of care to assess every pesticide
and even with that, we're not finding very many situations
where there's even a slight chance of some human health effect.
And we're finding none where there is a chance of a health effect
over the long-term.
And that's not just the case for individual foods.
Even if we only ate foods that contain traces of pesticides,
put together, Dr Brantom says they wouldn't pose a cumulative risk
to our health.
To minimise your exposure even more, the Food Standards Agency says
you could wash or peel your fruit and veg,
but like Dr Brantom says, it's not required.
So you spend your life testing, monitoring,
looking for pesticide residue...
..are you happy to eat all of these different foods
and not worry about the implications it will have to your health?
I personally buy those things that I enjoy eating.
And I don't take any account of anything other
than that what the produce looks like when I buy it in the shop.
And if you're not worried, the rest of us can sleep easy.
I would say, yes.
Now, there aren't many foods that are marketed on the basis
that it tastes so unique, you either love it or hate it.
But yeast extract has been successfully dividing opinion
for decades, and whatever brand you choose,
because, yes, there is more than one,
it's also the subject of some pretty impressive health claims.
However, when we asked Danny Crates to investigate,
things weren't quite as simple as some reports make out.
When I was told I was going to a brewery,
I thought it was my lucky day.
Unfortunately, I'm not here for the beer, I'm here for the leftovers,
which can be turned into a magical concoction full of health benefits.
Or so it's claimed.
After the brewers have made the stuff they're best at, the beer,
the yeast that's left over can be turned into something that divides
opinion across breakfast tables all over the country -
It's been credited with preventing dementia, epilepsy,
miscarriages and birth defects.
And even giving you a better night's sleep.
While one iconic brand leads the market,
there are many others available, too.
I have to admit, I'm not really a fan of yeast extract -
I find it tastes salty and bitter.
But the health claims are certainly impressive.
So let's see if the workers at this brewery are convinced by them.
Time for a tea and toast break.
OK, so, just in one word, can you describe how it tasted?
Salty, I was going to say.
No fans here, then.
But this lot aren't representative of the rest of the nation.
Demand for yeast extract is massive.
It's said the market leader produces more than 50 million jars every year
and as well as being renowned for the way it tastes,
it's also legendary because it's jammed packed
with vitamins and nutrients.
Head brewer Michael Lees-Jones is going to get me up close with
some ale. Now, that sounds more like it.
-Michael, hi. Danny.
-You look very busy there.
-Good to meet you.
Every year, Michael and his team make 18 million pints of beer
using an age-old method.
The yeast turns the sugar into alcohol and without the yeast,
you don't get the fermentation, you don't get the alcohol produced.
And because the yeast keeps on multiplying,
there's five times more left after every brewing
than there was at the beginning.
So if we look in here, we've got the yeast sitting on the top of what is
now the beer underneath.
Every week, this place produces an incredible seven tonnes
of extra yeast it just can't use.
Most of this excess from breweries goes into things like animal feed.
But after a complicated process that turns it from this...
..to this, and adds a hefty dose of vitamins,
some can end up on your breakfast table.
It's those added vitamins that the reports say make yeast extract
so powerful for our health.
Or two specific B vitamins,
to be precise.
B3, which helps our body convert food into energy, and B12.
B12 is one of these vitamins that we know is needed
for the maintenance of healthy nerve cells.
So it is important for people to be meeting their needs,
but it's only found in animal products.
So for vegans, actually, having something like yeast extract
in their diet will help them meet their vitamin B12 needs.
Dietician Priya Tew says other foods like breakfast cereal
and bread also contain the same B vitamins as yeast extract.
So eating those instead could be just as good a way to get your daily
requirement of both B12 and B3.
So, I studied six brands of yeast extract
to look at the B3 content and actually, to meet your B3 needs
for a day, you'd need four teaspoons.
If you look at the salt content, four teaspoons of an average yeast
extract contain between quarter to a half of the day's salt intake.
So it's a lot.
However, most people wouldn't have four teaspoons.
They'd maybe have one teaspoon on a piece of toast.
And that's absolutely fine.
So to get your vitamins, you could have some yeast extract
and some foods?
Absolutely, that would be the perfect way to do it.
You can get your B3 from other foods.
So an example of that would be cornflakes,
because they're fortified with B3,
and then a handful of peanuts and some chicken.
So it's odd that the reports singled out yeast extract
as the food that could do things like preventing miscarriages
and birth defects,
especially when the original study didn't even test yeast extract.
That was actually a lab study that was done.
Part of it was done on mice and not even on humans.
They were specifically looking at vitamin B3, or niacin.
They weren't looking at yeast extract.
So somehow this leap has been made from the research done on B3
to yeast extract, which makes no sense
because that's not what was used in the study.
And that's not the only report
to credit yeast extract
Last spring, news websites went wild for the results
of a study that seemed to be saying
yeast extract could boost your brain
and may even prevent dementia.
But Anika Smith, who led the study at the University of York,
was baffled by some of those headlines.
Yeah, it really took us by surprise because obviously
nothing in my study mentions about dementia.
And all my participants were aged between about 18-32.
None of them have dementia and we didn't test for anything to do with
dementia related symptoms.
So, yeah, it came out of nowhere a bit.
So the headlines are a mystery.
The study actually set out to explore epilepsy
and whether B vitamins might help calm the brain
and reduce the likelihood of a seizure.
Anika used yeast extract as a way of giving the test subjects
a dose of B vitamins. She's going to show me how it was carried out
and it involves some fancy headwear.
-Is that all right, not too tight?
-I'd say it's almost comfortable.
There's all this excitatory activity in the brain, so epilepsy,
too much of that can lead to the seizures.
The subjects were hooked up to this machine every day
for a month to have their brain patterns measured
after half of them had eaten a teaspoon of peanut butter
and half of them, a teaspoon of yeast extract.
So I don't think we can quite do a month,
but would you like some yeast extract before we begin?
I might have the peanut butter.
-Sadly, I don't have any of that with me.
Oh, I shouldn't have done that!
They did that for a month?!
Yep, every day.
The flashing images are designed to trigger brain activity.
And while there's nothing to compare my readings to,
the real study did make some impressive findings.
The people who ate the yeast extract showed really reduced neural
responses compared to the ones that ate the peanut butter.
And we think this is because of the vitamin B12 in the yeast extract.
But while it's an impressive finding,
Anika's careful not to jump to any conclusion.
So, hopefully, in the future, we can use this to look at things to do
with epilepsy but, yeah, for now, there's no link with dementia
or anything like that.
So for the moment, exciting with the potential this could hold,
but definitely no miracle cure for epilepsy or dementia?
Yeah, exactly, nothing like that for now.
Yeast extract might not prevent epilepsy and dementia,
or indeed birth defects and miscarriages,
but the B vitamins it contains are important.
If you like it, go ahead and keep eating it.
But if you don't, then rest assured, it's no wonder food.
So there's no need to put yourself through something like this...
I'm going to be getting my B vitamins elsewhere.
Well, I don't know about you, Gloria, but my weekly shop
feels a lot safer after hearing the stories in today's programme.
I'm just shocked that you do the weekly shopping, but there you go!
Now, after that report, I feel that many people won't be rushing out
to buy gluten-free products
until they've been checked out by their GP.
I found it really interesting to learn that unless you've got
a genuine allergy or intolerance,
it's not the healthy choice that many people might think.
And I, for one, will be sticking to my regular loaf.
Well, good for you. But if you are intolerant to gluten or dairy,
you can find a whole range of ideas for free from meals
that are healthy at...
For now, though, I'm afraid that's where we're
going to have to leave it.
We'll be back to debunk more confusing claims very soon.
-So, until then.
-Thank you so much for your company. Bye-bye.
Chris Bavin and Gloria Hunniford cut through more conflicting claims and confusing messages about what people eat. Today, they unravel the truth behind alarming reports on some of the everyday foods we put in our shopping baskets. Gloria examines claims that so-called 'free from' foods might not be the healthy option they first seem, while Chris investigates reports that 75% of the honey we eat contains traces of pesticides. Plus Danny Crates asks if the claims about the health benefits of yeast extract are overblown. And, does superspice turmeric really have all the benefits we have been led to believe?