Episodes

  • Competitive Eating: Chewing it Over

    · The Food Chain

    What happens to your body when you eat 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes, and why would thousands of people watch you do it? We’re exploring the curious appeal of competitive eating, and its impact on our stomachs, minds and society around us. What does the popularity of eating competitions tell us about our changing relationship with food? And why do humans appear to have such an appetite for watching other people regurgitate it? In the second episode to explore the curious appeal of competitive eating, presenter Emily Thomas gives it a go, and speaks to a doctor about the potential risks. We find out what goes on inside the body of a speed eater and just how big their stomachs get. Is it nature or nurture that allows people to consume such vast quantities of food?We also hear from a man who says competitive eating helped him get over anorexia nervosa, and find out what a psychiatrist thinks.Competitive eating can be dangerous, especially outside of a controlled environment, so please do not try this at home.

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  • Competitive Eating: The 'Gurgitators'

    · The Food Chain

    We speak to some of the world's most successful competitive eaters and find out how, and why, they do it.In the first of two episodes on the so-called sport, four ‘gurgitators’ tell us what it takes to eat the most hot dogs, corncobs or burgers in the shortest possible time. This is not something you should try at home.Emily Thomas speaks to one of the industry's biggest names, Takeru Kobayashi, a man credited with revolutionising competitive eating and turning it into a sport. We hear from New Yorker Yasir Salem, who combines speed-eating with triathlons and marathons, and Londoner Kate Ovens tells us how she is making a career from posting videos of eating challenges online, attracting thousands of fans in the process.(Photo: Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York on 4 July 2009. Credit: Yana Paskova, Getty Images)

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  • My Life in Five Dishes: Madhur Jaffrey

    · The Food Chain

    Join us for five unforgettable dishes from one extraordinary life as the food writer and actress Madhur Jaffrey reveals some rather surprising mealtimes - from a swimming lesson with a watermelon, to a dinner disaster with jazz legend, Dizzy Gillespie.The food writer and award-winning actress has written more than 15 cookbooks, many of them bestsellers, and has been credited with changing the way people outside India think about the country’s food. She joins the BBC's Emily Thomas to talk about the meals that have shaped her remarkable career.(Photo: Madhur Jaffrey. Credit: Penguin Books)

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  • A Fly Future?

    · The Food Chain

    We're in South Africa again to find out whether fly larvae could help humans eat more meat and fish.As the global population expands, traditional feed sources such as fishmeal, soya and grains, could put increasing pressure on the environment, depleting oceans and reducing biodiversity. Alternative protein sources based on insects are being developed by a number of companies across the world. In this episode we explore whether they are as effective as traditional feeds, and how big the industry is likely to get.Plus, might maggots be able to ease the world’s landfill problems too?Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Black soldier fly. Credit: Getty images).

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  • The Maggot Masters

    · The Food Chain

    This week we’re in South Africa, picking up great big squirming handfuls of maggots. Could these unpalatable little creatures hold the answer to some big questions – what to do about the huge amount of waste going into landfill, and how to meet the world’s growing demand for a sustainable supply of farmed fish, pigs and poultry? A company called Agriprotein thinks its fly farm is the solution. They've just won The Food Chain’s first Global Champion Award - which recognises innovative ideas that could have a longstanding impact on the way we produce or consume food. The Food Chain's Emily Thomas gets up close to their armada of over 9 billion flies in the first of two episodes to explore the potential of using insects as a protein source for animal and fish feed.

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  • Cow Candy

    · The Food Chain

    Why do farmers feed their cows sweets? What are the implications for the animals’ health, the environment and the taste of our meat?From the mystery of a rural US highway covered in Skittles, to chocolate-flavoured steak selling for hundreds of dollars, we explore the impact of feeding cows the byproducts of human food production.Plus, we take our own bag of treats onto the farm and discover cows have rather expensive tastes.Presenter: Emily Thomas(Picture: A cow eating a chocolate bar.)

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  • Finding a Food Champion

    · The Food Chain

    Meet the people determined to revolutionise what and how we eat as we launch our first ever international award. We hear about the four shortlisted projects hoping to be named The Food Chain Global Champion, including an insect-based cooking oil, a beekeeper empowering women in northern India, a maggot-based animal feed, and a global movement seeking to transform food and agriculture. We’ll also hear form our international panel of judges on their reasons for shortlisting the final four, and a slam poet’s verdict in verse. The Food Chain Global Food Champion Award recognises a person or project whose work in the economics, science, or culture of food has (or has the potential to have), a global impact on how we produce, process, consume or think about food and drink. The winner will be revealed later this month.Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Sahida Begum inspects her bees in the Araku valley, in the in the northern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Credit: Sahida Begum.)

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  • The Art of Fermentation

    · The Food Chain

    For 20 years Sandor Katz has been fascinated by fermentation - the breaking down of food and drink by microbes. Through his books and workshops he has helped thousands of people begin to experiment with flavours, fruits, vegetables, spices... and microorganisms. Dan Saladino travels to Sandor's forest home in rural Tennessee to meet Sandor, hear his story, and discover for himself the transformative potential of this culinary process.Producer: Rich Ward

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  • Upper Crust?

    · The Food Chain

    What does your choice of loaf say about you? Is your sourdough a source of pride? Have you ever felt ashamed of your sliced white? Flour, water, and salt - over thousands of years the basic recipe for bread has changed very little. But often there's been a dollop of judgement thrown in too. From Plato to modern-day Cairo, in this episode we’re talking about the ever-changing relationship between bread and social class. How have certain types of loaf come to have different moral and social meanings? And, can bread divide a society? Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Loaf of bread. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • Is Social Media Putting You Off Your Lunch?

    · The Food Chain

    Are you the kind of person who can’t help taking a picture of your food before you eat it? Do you search out Facebook foods, Twitter tips and Instagram ideas for new restaurants and recipes? Or maybe the very thought of all this puts you off your lunch.This week we meet foodies, writers and experts to discuss where education ends and obsession begins. The BBC’s Manuela Saragosa talks to: Adaobi Okonkwo, who blogs about food under the name Dobby in Lagos; and Anna Barnett, who is a blogger, contributor to Vogue and Grazia, and author of cookery book “Eat The Week”. She also speaks to Ursula Philpot, registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University; and Eve Turow Paul, a millennial food expert and writer.(Photo: Woman takes picture of food on phone. Credit: Getty Images).

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  • Stockpiles? What Stockpiles?

    · The Food Chain

    We’re on the hunt for the world’s biggest stashes of food. Can the food system handle a big shock, or is it time to stock up on your supplies? In last week’s episode we met people doing just that - stockpiling food in anticipation of anything from a major natural disaster, to the apocalypse. They had little faith that their governments would be able to keep the food supply under control in extreme circumstances. This week we set out to test their assumptions. From forgotten World War Two food sheds to Switzerland’s stockpiling sirens, which companies and governments are storing food in bulk? Where are they keeping it? Who can access it? And, if disaster strikes, will any get to you?Presenter: Emily ThomasContributors: Tony Lister, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Professor Tim Benton, University of Leeds, Tracey Allen, J.P. Morgan, Corinne Fleisher, World Food Programme.(Photo: abandoned warehouse. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • What Will You Eat if the Apocalypse Comes?

    · The Food Chain

    How long would your food supply last if you were unable to buy any food? Are you prepared for the worst is a hurricane hits, the floodwaters rise or the stock markets crash? Maybe your cupboards are full - but what if you had no electricity or gas to cook? Or if the water supply was turned off? And, if there was total breakdown of social order - could you defend the food you have? This week we meet the people who are stockpiling food in anticipation of anything from an earthquake to the apocalypse. They call themselves 'preppers'.Do they know something you don’t? When society is falling apart, do taste or texture matter? And when does stockpiling food become hoarding?The BBC’s Emily Thomas goes in search of some secret stockpiles to find the best post-apocalyptic food plans.With contributors: Pete Stanford, Lincoln Miles, owner, Preppers Shop, Henry Hargreaves, Photographer, Lisa Bedford, The Survival Mom, and Kate Daigle, psychologist.

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  • Have We Cracked the Nut Problem?

    · The Food Chain

    It’s a food problem that can prove fatal - and we might be about to crack it. The first licensed medicines to treat peanut allergy are close to being approved by regulators. But we ask – why has it taken so long?For over a century we’ve known that an allergy can be treated by controlled exposure to the allergen. Simply put, the treatment of a peanut allergy is a very small dose of peanut. So when the prevalence of allergies began to soar in the 1990s you could have been forgiven for thinking a solution might not be far off. But as yet, there are no licensed medicines for widespread use. Some clinicians already use the technique – known as immunotherapy – but it is unregulated and the cost is prohibitive for many.This could all be about to change. Two treatments are expected to be approved by regulators in the next couple of years. It couldn't have happened without the involvement of charitable donors, venture capitalists, and pharmaceutical companies. The food industry has also invested millions. In this episode we explore the relationship between profit and progress when it comes to solving a serious food health problem. Why has it taken until now to get to this point? And, when the worst possible outcome is the death of a child, isn’t total avoidance of peanuts the safest option?Contributors: Dr Louisa James, Queen Mary University of London, Lisa and Clara Goff, Dr Andrew Clark, Cambridge Peanut Allergy Clinic and Chief Scientific Officer, Camallergy, Dr Pierre-Henri Benhamou, DBV technologies, Stephen Dilly, Aimmune Therapeutics, and Dr Robert Wood, John Hopkins Children’s Centre.Presenter: Emily Thomas

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  • Health lessons with the Hadza

    · The Food Chain

    We're continuing our adventures in east Africa with the Hadza – a skilled tribe of hunter gatherers who could be the last remaining link to our ancient food past. We join them as they hunt and forage, eating baobab for breakfast and enjoying some very unusual honey, all in the quest to discover the ideal human diet.The reason the scientists and geneticists are so interested in the Hadza, is because it’s thought they can help us better understand our complex relationship with our gut microbiome – the community of microbes that live inside us all. It’s thought the microbiome exerts such a powerful influence on our health it’s considered now to be in an organ in its own right, and the Hadza have a diversity of gut microbes unmatched by any group on earth. So if the Hadza can help us understand the microbiome and where our modern diets have gone wrong in depleting gut microbe diversity, perhaps the secrets of the their diet can help us all become healthier humans.

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  • Hunting with the Hadza

    · The Food Chain

    This week we’re going to be telling what might be the oldest food story in the world.The Hadza of Tanzania, east Africa, are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer communities in the world and the last remaining link to our ancient food past. The total population of the group now stands at around one thousand, with up to two hundred living as pure hunter-gatherers, who grow nothing, and practice no form of farming. They’ve lived in this part of east Africa for at least 40 thousand years and food for the Hadza has remained relatively unchanged.We meet the community, who walk in the footsteps of our human ancestors, joining them as they hunt for porcupine, climb 30 feet up a tree in search of honey, dig deep for tubers and snack on berries picked from trees. Through this insight into what our earliest human ancestors ate, we learn about our own human development and the crucial link between the food we eat, and the crucial microbiomes we carry in our digestive systems. Using these discoveries, the Hadza can help give us much needed ideas for our food future.With contributors: Jeff Leach, Founder of the Human Food Project; Tim Spector, Professor of genetics at Kings College London.Presenter: Dan Saladino, in collaboration with BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme

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  • Fortification: Too Much of a Good thing?

    · The Food Chain

    What if we told you something had been added to your food that could affect your health? You can't see it, you won’t taste it, and you might not have realised it’s there at all. Most of us will eat something that has been fortified with micronutrients – small amounts of minerals and vitamins - every day. But who is adding them to our food - and why? And does a focus on fortification by development agencies mean valuable resources have been diverted from tackling underlying causes of malnutrition in the developing world? Mandatory fortification is when food manufacturers are required by law to add certain vitamins or minerals to foods. The other type of food fortification is voluntary - meaning it’s at the discretion of the manufacturer to add nutrients from a government-approved list. Some argue this leads to foods being fortified for commercial purposes, rather than genuine public health concerns.We’ll be speaking to global food company, Nestle, which is on a mission to fortify more of its processed food - and to one of the main NGOs involved in fortifying staple foods in the developing world, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. We also visit a bakery in London, and a street market in Accra, Ghana to hear what the consumer makes of all this.With contributors: Gordon Polson, Federation of Bakers in the UK, Mark Lawrence Professor in Public Health Nutrition at Deakin University, Australia, Wayne England, senior Vice President for the Global Strategy Unit at Nestle, Barrie Margetts, Emeritus Professor within Medicine, University of Southampton, UK and Lawrence Haddad, GAIN.Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Milk being poured into an overflowing bowl of cornflakes. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • The Unlikely Power of Cookbooks

    · The Food Chain

    Even if you’ve never picked up a book of recipes - cookbooks will have had a huge influence on how you live. What may appear to be mere collections of ingredients and cooking methods, sometimes tell us just as much about social class, politics and gender. We explore how cookery books have been used to demonstrate power, strengthen colonial and soviet ideology, and divide society by class and race.Do we see these dividing lines reflected in today’s publishing industry? And what does your choice of cookbook say about you?Plus - why did a stuffed peacock leave 150 Harvard undergraduates aghast?With contributors: Barbara Ketcham-Wheaton, food historian and honorary curator of the culinary collection at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University; Polly Russell, food historian and curator at The British Library; Sarah Lavelle, publishing director at Quadrille; and Katharina Vester, professor of history at American University, Washington DC.Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Man opens book. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • Food Secrets of Centenarians

    · The Food Chain

    People who have lived into their hundreds explain their food experiences and philosophies, to help us explore relationship between food and longevity. We ask whether despite having a greater variety of food available, and an ever growing abundance of dietary information, are younger generations able to replicate the diets of the oldest people on earth? Does modern food culture prevent us from emulating the food habits of centenarians? In Acciaroli, Italy,one of the BBC’s longest-standing reporters visits a village where more than one in ten people live more than a century, to find out their diet secrets. From there to Surrey, England, where 100 year old Helen Clare, a famous war-time singer explains her philosophy to food. Does attitude matter - and have younger generations become too obsessed with what we eat? We meet a man who has visited the oldest communities in the world - and hear their food secrets. What are the similarities between the diet of centenarians in Okinawa, Japan and California, US? Are there certain foods or general food principles that make you live longer? Or is it the company you keep?Plus, what is the scientific evidence for the link between diet and a longer life? With contributors: Helen Clare, singer, Dan Buettner, author, and John Mathers, scientific director of the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University. Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Woman eating ice cream. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • What Time is Dinner?

    · The Food Chain

    How social class has dictated when we eat. From Ancient Greece to New York hipsters, what has determined our mealtimes in the past and who wants them to change now? For thousands of years when we eat signified where we were in society. It seems this idea may not have been consigned to history - is the resurgence of brunch marking out a new 'creative' social class? And have you heard of the ‘fourth meal’? Snacking is on the rise - and the food industry might be helping you abandon the three meal model. Is more choice breaking apart the structured meal? Plus, what exactly is the scientific evidence that any of this matters? With contributions from: Paul Freedman, Yale University, Shawn Micallef, Author, Tamara Barnett, Vice President of Strategic Insights at The Hartman Group and Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, at Harvard University.Presenter: Emily Thomas(Photo: Clock and cutlery. Credit: Getty Images)

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  • Much Ado About Michelin

    · The Food Chain

    For many chefs winning a Michelin star, or two or three, is often considered the pinnacle of their career. It could put them on the path to money and fame. But some critics claim not all stars are equal- and in an industry where receiving one could mean the difference between profit and loss, the stakes are high. In this episode we take a closer look at the Michelin guide and how two brothers made the name of their tyre business synonymous with the highest quality food in the world. Why do some chefs view earning a Michelin star as a curse, and others as a celebration? We’ll get a behind the scenes look at the life of a Michelin inspector, with an interview with Claire Dorland-Clauzel, who heads the guides. The BBC's Kent DePinto speaks to Michelin-starred chef Tom Kemble on how the accolade has helped his career. Gary Pisano, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, talks about the impact of a Michelin star on a restaurant's ability to innovate. The BBC's Ashleigh Nghiem meets the Singaporian street hawker who was awarded a Michelin star. And we hear from food critic Andy Hayler on why he thinks recent partnerships by Michelin with tourist boards may be leading tourists astray.(Image: a Michelin guide on display. Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi / Getty Images)

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