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Speed dates add something new to Spirit of Speyside event

Love will be in the air at this years Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival with the introduction of a ..

Love will be in the air at this years Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival with the introduction of a speed dating session.

Heritage, travel, education, music, socialising, food and drink are all a big part of the festival, and now the organisers have added some hopeful romance to the bill.

The festival is perfect for those who adore whisky, and a one-to-one with some of Speysides most highly esteemed whisky experts could be just the ticket.

However, Speed Dating: Whisky Blethers is billed as the chance to spend an evening with key industry players and ask them all about the craft that they love and cherish.

This is a chance to get up close and personal with the coppersmiths, coopers, stillmen, mashmen, warehousemen and managers that have created the whiskies of Rothes, in a festival first taking place at the distillery towns Seafield Arms Hotel.

Whisky lovers will have the chance to spend up to 15 minutes with each expert, including Dennis Malcolm, master distiller at Glen Grant and a past winner of the Spirit of Speyside Award winner recognising 50 years service to the industry; Alasdair Anderson, current manager at Glenrothes Distillery in Rothes; Alexander Tweedie, who retired as technical support manager for Edrington but still hosts VIP tours at Glenrothes; Allan McDonald, now retired stillman and mashman at Glenrothes and Glen Grant; and Brian Webster, head cooper and Edringtons Glenrothes cooperage.

Enjoy a one-to-one session with a whisky expert at this years Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

While engaged in chat with the experts, a modern Rothes whisky flight featuring a dram of Glenrothes, Glen Grant, Speyburn and Glen Spey, will be served along with a buffet.

Music and blindfolds will be among the tools used to take festival goers on a journey back in time to discover Speysides Lost Whisky Legends.

The voyage will uncover the incredible story of the lost distilleries, like Speysides Towiemore which was built in 1897 in the parish of Botriphnie, just six miles from Dufftown.

This heritage session will lift the lid on the founder, a forgotten Speyside whisky baron called Peter Dawson, exploring his distilling roots, in a multi-sensory tasting experience with music, blindfolds and tastes from a hand-picked chocolate box of Scotch to rediscover the pioneering 19th century era of whisky. Lost Whisky Legends Reborn is being hosted at The Drouthy Cobbler in Elgin on May 6.

In a centuries-old industry, its rare to get the chance to meet a distillery founder – but festival goers can do just that at Ballindalloch this year.

What does a whisky tasting in Dufftown have in common with Star Wars? Think Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and whether an apprentice can surpass the teacher. In this this case, The Whisky Shop Dufftowns Lady of Drams Vicky Keough takes on shop owner Mike Lord, newly appointed Keeper of the Quaich, in a head-to-head whisky tasting.

This will be done in front of an audience at St James Hall in Dufftown, who are sure to pick up a few good tips and pointers about the drams they will be sampling, before they decide which one is master or mistress of whisky tasting.

Theres nothing unusual about ceilidhs taking place during the festival weekend but the venue for one – on board a train – is a little out of the ordinary.

The first Ceilidh on a Train is being held as part of the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival

Speyside has its own whisky line, on which a heritage railway links Dufftown and Keith, and the operators are planning a hooley when passengers will enjoy the sounds of lively local ceilidh band Footerin Aboot, along with a dram and shortbread or whisky cake while passing by some great Speyside scenery.

The first Ceilidh On A Train return trip departing from Dufftown has completely sold out but there are still some tickets for the final journey on the afternoon of Saturday, May 5.

James Campbell, chairman of Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, said: This really is the year to make a date with our festival as weve got so many unique events in our programme. Hats off to the whisky lovers who came up with a novel take on speed dating, the chance to meet whisky experts and discuss a shared love, over a dram or two of course.

While some events have already sold out, there is still time to get tickets for others, and the variety and the character of the offering is as diverse as the many different whiskies that are produced in the regions 50 plus distilleries.

Tickets are still available for events in this years festival, which runs from May 3 to 7. Theres everything from behind-the-scenes tours at internationally renowned distilleries not usually open to the public, whisky tasting masterclasses, whisky and food pairings complemented by outdoor activities and heritage events, meaning the festival offers something for die-hard whisky fans to those who have never tried it before.

For further information and tickets click HERE.

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Food

Preventing food fraud: Europe’s battle against the spice pirates

Spices are among the oldest food products in the world and still enjoy great popularity today. But h..

Spices are among the oldest food products in the world and still enjoy great popularity today. But how can we be sure of their quality and authenticity? With serious money to be made, counterfeiters are often attempting to fradulently pass off inferior products as the genuine article.

To find out more about how fraud in this arena can be identified and stopped, we went to Belgium to meet a spice trader – and also to see scientists working at the Joint Research Centre’s Fraud Detection Unit.

Spice expert

Herbs and spices are the daily business of Alexandre Veuve; he is the manager of the prestigious spice specialist and gourmet grocery store Le Tour Du Monde En Epices in Waterloo, south of Brussels.

As an expert in the sector, he always guarantees that the products he sells are of the highest quality:

However, he knows only too well that fraud is a common risk in this market:

“There is generally fraud on quite expensive spices, for example saffron. This is a spice that is worth as much as gold, so obviously there are a lot of scams involving it.

“Powders are also the target of fraud because they can be more easily falsified.

“That’s why we make our own powders; we buy the spices whole and then we create them ourselves.”

“There is ofen fraud on quite expensive spices – for example, saffron. This is a spice that is worth as much as gold, so obviously there are a lot of scams involving it.”Euronews

Europe’s food fraud unit

One of the facilities of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Geel in Belgium hosts the European Food Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit. Here, teams of scientists analyse samples of spices imported to Europe using state-of-the-art technologies, in some cases using methods similar to those used for police investigations.

One of the most powerful tools at their disposal is DNA analysis. The genetic map of the spice can indicate whether or not there are foreign biological elements present.

The most common types of fraud are the use of less expensive plants, or the addition of dyes to make the spice appear more attractive or authentic.

Antoon Lievens, a Molecular Biologist at the Unit, says saffron is a good example of where fraud is regularly attempted:

“We’ve found one or two samples that were not saffron at all and the sequencing analysis has shown that it was safflower that has been sold as saffron.

“Another exemple is curcuma (turmeric). We’ve found a sample that was not curcuma, but actually paprika powder that had been dyed or coloured to look like curcuma.”

Analysis via spectroscopy

The detection of fraud is based on a set of investigative protocols, each of which unveils a part of the puzzle. Spectroscopy is one powerful method; it doesn’t require special sample preparation and allows a rapid result through the examination of the samples molecules by a laser beam.

Jone Omar, an Analytical Chemist at the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit, says this is a foolproof method:

“Spectroscopy is basically based on a ray of light touching the sample, which makes the molecules vibrate and we then obtain a light spectrum readout of the vibration of those molecules.

“So when we focus on a pure food, we have a pure spectrum for it.

“When we spot an adulteration, the spectrum of the vibration of the molecule bands is different.”

This x-ray fluorescence technique, which is also used for non-invasive analysis of artworks to establish authenticity or otherwise, reveals whether or not inorganic materials – such as sand or clay – are present in the plant sample.

Chemical tests such as liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry allow, through the separation of the molecules, the establishment of whether or not there are traces of external dyes present.

These same techniques are also used to create chemical fingerprints of spices, which can then provide even more in-depth information about the nature of the sample.

If the adulteration is confirmed, certain measures can then be taken.

Franz Ulberth, Head of the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit, explains:

“One of the further measures could be that you send inspectors to check the company, to look into the books, to (examine) transportation papers, establishing a chain of traceability, to trace it back to the origin.”

The spice production and distribution supply chain is spread between different countries and this makes controls more complicated.

In a growing market of global scale, the use of these techniques is key to certifying the quality of the product.

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UK beef exports to US resume after more than 20 years

British beef is back on US menus for the first time in more than 20 years as exports restart on Wedn..

British beef is back on US menus for the first time in more than 20 years as exports restart on Wednesday.

The beef was banned after the BSE outbreak in 1996 when cattle were infected by what became commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.

Some UK beef was cleared for export in March after US inspections in 2019, and shipments from Northern Ireland’s Foyle Food Group will be the first to leave.

Ministers said the US market will be worth £66m to the UK over five years.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a body funded by farmers and the supply chain, called the resumption of exports a “historic moment”.

Dr Phil Hadley, a director at the board, said: “The US represents an important potential market for our red meat exports and today’s first shipment is the result of the hard work and persistence of industry and government to bring about this crucial next step.

“This important milestone will bring a fantastic boost to the sector and we look forward to seeing more of our red meat served up on dinner tables across the US in the months and years to come.”

In 2019, the US Food Safety Inspection Service undertook a series of audits at UK beef, pork and lamb facilities. Pork exports to the US continue as usual, while exports of lamb have yet to commence.

“This is great news for our food and farming industry, helping the sector go from strength to strength,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice.

Post-Brexit deals

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “This could be just the tip of the iceberg. The free trade deal we are negotiating with the US will create a host of export opportunities for British agriculture. We are seeking an ambitious and high standards agreement that benefits farmers and delivers for consumers.”

However, those free trade talks remain controversial, with critics warning the government not to lower UK food standards in order to strike a deal.

This week a group of celebrities and chefs, including Jamie Oliver and Joe Wicks, said post-Brexit trade deals should not open the floodgates to lower-quality food, citing chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef.

However, Ms Truss has previously insisted the UK will not allow US chlorine-washed chicken to be stocked in supermarkets as a ban is already written into law.

She said the UK will not compromise on environmental, animal welfare and food standards in its quest for trade agreements.

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GOVERNMENTS DIETARY GUIDELINES ARE FAILING THE PLANET, STUDY FINDS

Dietary advice needs to be more environmentally friendly, say scientists.

After looking at recommen..

Dietary advice needs to be more environmentally friendly, say scientists.

After looking at recommendations from around the world, a new study has found that 98 per cent of government dietary guidelines are falling behind current science for both health and environmental impact.

Theres a good chance youve never taken a second look at your countrys dietary guidelines. Despite this, they often find their way into our lives as the basis of food education, policy-making and labelling initiatives.

Research recently published in the British Medical Journal looked at available dietary guidelines from 85 different countries in every region of the world. They judged each set of guidelines against five environmental targets and one health target that governments had pledged to reach.

The health target was to reduce early deaths from non-infectious diseases by a third, while environmental targets were linked to the 2C limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Other environmental targets considered pollution from farming, land use and destruction of nature.

Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford told Euronews Living that our food system is “a major driver of environmental impacts”.


“Without dietary changes towards more plant-based diets, key environmental limits related to climate change, land use, freshwater extraction, and biogeochemical flows associated with fertilizer application risk being exceeded,” he added.

Dr Springmann said that what the team behind the study discovered was “shocking and revealing”. Only two of these sets of dietary guidelines, from Indonesia and Sierra Leone, were in line with all 6 of the health, climate and pollution targets.

The report found that 98 per cent of the dietary guidelines looked at by researchers didnt meet at least one of the global environmental and health targets. Guidelines from 74 of the countries also failed to give recommendations that would keep dietary carbon emissions within the global warming limits set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

Some countries were worse than others. If everyone in the world followed advice from the US or the UK, for example, then food-related carbon emissions would be three times the limits for avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.

HOW CAN DIETARY GUIDELINES BE BETTER?

In every country the study looked at, people were eating more red and processed meat than recommended by WHO guidelines.

The researchers are recommending that new dietary guidelines are brought in line with current science with “stringent reductions in dairy and beef. They also say that there should be specific advice available for people looking to eat healthy and sustainable plant-based diets.

“We also looked at several examples of how reformed dietary guidelines could look,” lead researcher, Marco Springmann wrote in a blog post. “In short, they involved much stricter limits for meat and dairy, both for health and environmental reasons, and to be specific but not overly prescriptive, they included different dietary patterns based around plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes.”

These reformed guidelines are similar to the science-based advice of the “planetary health diet” created by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health. This diet was created with the idea of providing nutritious food to the worlds growing population while addressing the role of agriculture in the climate crisis.

BALANCING HEALTH AND CLIMATE

But Helena Gibson-Moore of the British Nutrition Foundation tells Euronews Living that it is important to remember that dietary guidelines are “also developed to provide adequate nutrition to populations.”

“Dairy products might not be the most environmentally friendly foods to produce but are important sources of calcium and iodine in many countries, so reducing intakes may increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies,” she says.

“Its also important to bear in mind other factors of a healthy and sustainable diet, for example, cultural differences, as well as the cost and accessibility to foods, to ensure that dietary recommendations are achievable for everyone.”

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