This year, the Food Matters Live podcast experienced a year of activity. Recording 118 episodes, exploring diverse topics, and featuring guests with profound knowledge and passion for the food and drink industry. As we bid farewell to 2023, take a retrospective look at key highlights and discussions from the past year. Without further ado, let’s dive in:
1. Food as preventative medicine
Nutritional science has often taken a backseat in medical training, leaving many healthcare professionals hesitant to provide dietary advice.
Leading health professionals such as Dr Rupy, founder of The Doctor’s Kitchen, and Tim Spector, Professor of Epidemiology at King’s College London, are on a mission to resolve this glaring omission in healthcare delivery.
They are leading a pivot towards lifestyle medicine, with nutrition being a key pillar in this holistic healthcare model.
But how far can we go with the idea of using food to help with medical conditions?
In this episode, we were joined by Dr Rupy Aujila, NHS GP and founder of The Doctor’s Kitchen. Drawing on his own experiences in practice as well as the latest scientific evidence, he explained why food should be seen as an important medical tool that can complement, rather than replace, traditional medical interventions. This is one you don’t want to miss.
2. A drop of faith – religion’s influence on alcohol
Stefan Gates welcomed the author and broadcaster Tom Morton to explore how alcohol and religion intersect, revealing surprising links between faith and alcohol, spirits and the spiritual.
Drawing on research from his latest book ‘Holy Waters: Searching for the Sacred in a Glass’, he unravelled the significance of drinks like mead, sake, and rum in religious rituals – including their history, lore, and symbolism.
How does the connection between religion and alcohol manifest across the world? How has this evolved over time? And what impact has religion had on the alcoholic drinks we make, sell and consume today? Tune in and find out.
3. Can processed food affect your mental health?
In the United States, 60% of nutritional intake comes from ultra-processed foods – products that have undergone extensive changes and bear little resemblance to natural whole foods.
In her book, Unprocessed, Kimberley Wilson pinpoints the proliferation of ultra-processed foods as a driving factor behind the mental health crisis, suggesting quality nutrition as an important part of the solution.
We sat down with Kimberley to investigate the impact of ultra-processed foods on mental health, asking: Is there a link? What does the science say? And if there is a problem, how do we go about fixing it? The answers are in this episode…
4. “Of Ice and Men” – How the cold stuff has shaped our culinary history
The evolutionary success of humankind has relied on a handful of fundamental but often unsung food and drink developments.
Among them are the use of salt for curing, the domestication of plant species, man’s discovery of fire, the development of irrigation and fermentation, the domestication of animals, and the invention of Jethro Tull’s seed drill.
One development that is rarely discussed, which is strange because it is so important, is the domestication of ice. This food revolution played a crucial role in shaping our culinary history, yet its ubiquity makes it easy to take ice for granted.
The Food Matters Live podcast welcomed Fred Hogge, historian, filmmaker and author of “Of Ice and Men: How We’ve Used Cold to Transform Humanity”. Drawing on his wealth of research for the book, Hogge took listeners on a journey back to learn about our hard-won mastery of ice and explored how it came to revolutionise food preservation. So sit back, relax and raise a glass (with ice) to the cold stuff whilst listening to this fascinating episode.
5. When will food prices start to fall?
The Office for National Statistics reported a 19.2% increase in UK food prices between 2022 and 2023, the highest in 45 years. It reflects a global wave of food inflation, with consumer prices up 14.3% on average since last year. But as the weekly food shop becomes more expensive for consumers, the World Bank says global wholesale prices are going down.
Why are food prices rising so drastically for consumers, but not wholesalers? How is food inflation impacting consumer health? And most importantly, when can we expect prices to begin to drop? Liliana Daniel, lead economist at the Food and Drink Federation and Rachelle Earwaker, Senior Economist at the Josephine Rowntree Foundation joined the podcast to explore these questions and more.
6. Defra’s chief scientific adviser on gene-edited crops
In March 2023, England witnessed a pivotal moment as a new law was passed allowing the commercial development of gene-edited food. Those in favour say it will improve food security, making it easier to develop hardier crops that will help us meet one of the challenges of climate change. Critics fear as-yet, unknown and unintended consequences for the food system and the environment.
Food Matters Live was lucky enough to sit down with a key figure behind the Precision Breeding Act, Professor Gideon Henderson, for a conversation on this game-changing piece of legislation. So, what does the new law actually allow for? What safeguards are in place, and how does it stand to reshape the future of the food industry?
7. Passover – telling stories with food
Millions celebrate Passover every year, a religious festival commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Central to these celebrations is the Seder Meal, a culinary tradition with powerful symbolism invested in every ingredient. From an egg representing spring and the circle of life to bitter herbs symbolising the bitterness of slavery, the Seder Meal is layered with complex meaning, flavour and history.
The Food Matters Live podcast welcomed Nora Rubel, Chair of the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester and Helene Sinnreich, director of the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee, to help unpack the symbolism within the Seder Meal and explore how it has evolved over time.
8. What’s the best food industry innovation since sliced bread?
In this episode, we revisited the most remarkable food industry innovations of the last century, beginning with the bread-slicing machine and moving forward to the present day.
Along the way, the episode explores what it takes to invent game-changing ideas and asks whether it is down to genius, luck, or if it’s simply inevitable. Looking to the future, evolutionary biologist Neil Buttery and food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye ponder what the next big food revolution awaits us – their answers may surprise you…