It was the British Nutrition Foundation’s Annual Day yesterday.  Academics, health professionals, industry, and students gathered at the Royal College of Physicians in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, to hear this year’s British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) Annual Lecture, delivered by Professor Sean Strain, Professor of Human Nutrition at University of Ulster.  Professor Strain was winner of the BNF Prize 2012, awarded in recognition of his outstanding leadership and research related to human nutrition, food and health. 

Professor Strain’s lecture, titled ‘Eating Fish for Two’, examined the prevalence of mercury in fish, the result of both natural and human activities, and looked at the scientific evidence behind the effects of methylmercury exposure and advice given to women about eating fish during pregnancy.  This fascinating presentation concluded that there is a need for a change in policy advice to motivate increased fish consumption in pregnant women.  The benefits outweigh the risks according to Professor Strain. 

This extraordinary presentation of scientific significance was followed by a raft of award presentations by HRH The Princess Royal on behalf of BNF, to students, nutritionists and dietitians.  Some were given in the memory and under the name of Sir Jack Drummond, who played an important role in the history of nutrition, in particular during and after the Second World War.

So why is this interesting?  The Chairman of BNF said a few words at the reception that followed the awards giving and his words will resonate with many people.  Nutrition and food security are of huge significance across the globe and climate change is posing many challenges for governments, academics, agriculture and food industries.  These challenges will continue to escalate unless the work of organisations like BNF continues. 

BNF’s modest team of scientists and education professionals work tirelessly to analyse, interpret and communicate nutrition science to multiple audiences.  They are sometimes criticised by the naïve and uneducated for their collaborations with industry but they remain true to their aims and scientific principles, and under strict governance to remain unbiased, balanced and focussed on scientific evidence.

BNF’s work this past year in promoting food provenance, healthy eating and cooking to primary and secondary schools across the country during Healthy Eating Week was an unparalleled success.  With over 3,000 schools taking part and activities involving 1.2 million children it demonstrates the huge appetite and need for knowledge, skills and resources in the community.  .

The small not-for-profit team also works hard to secure funding for its work and they deserve greater support and recognition to build on their vital work helping to address the burgeoning obesity  and associated disease crisis. 

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