Vital meat

Meat should be considered a vital ingredient of any food service contract, especially with the intense emphasis on healthy eating, says Dr Geraldine

Cuskelly, nutritionist at the Livestock and Meat Commission of Northern Ireland.

Beef and lamb are rich sources of iron which some surveys show is inadequate in some people's diets, particularly teenagers.

Although meat only supplies 14 per cent of the required intake of iron, it is more valuable than at first appears. This is because the iron in meat, the 'heam iron' or 'blood' iron, is more easily absorbed by the body compared with iron derived from eating vegetables, says Dr Cuskelly. Meat is also an important source of vitamin B12 and zinc.

Northern Ireland works on the five food groups for recommendation of diets. The groups are cereals and grains, fruit and veg, meat, fish and alternative proteins, dairy products and foods high in salt ,sugar or fat.

If pastry features in a main course for example, it should not appear in the dessert. However, calculating the nutrient value of each dish will be made easier with the introduction of computer software, says Dr Cuskelly. All nutritional advice from the Commission is based on the principle of Balance of Good Health [BOGH]. The Commission often liaises with the Hospital Catering Association of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Schools Catering Association [NISCA] for which it organises a competition to find the best school canteen cook each year.

Dr Cuskelly is also determined that the Food Standards Agency's proposal for a 'traffic light' labelling scheme does not misrepresent the healthy aspects of red meat.