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The Food Chain

The Food Chain

How to stop cooking killing

Thu, 07 Dec 2023

It’s estimated that more than 2 billion people use polluting stoves - with severe consequences for their health.

The World Health Organisation says 3.2 million people die each year as a result of the household air pollution they cause.

Ruth Alexander finds out why this problem – which also harms the environment – is so difficult to solve.

She speaks to Dr Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency in Paris; Sophie Odupoy from Koko Networks in Kenya; Naramath Lucas Kariongi from the Rural Communities Support Organisation in Tanzania; and Dr Mike Clifford of Nottingham University’s engineering department in the UK.

If you would like to get in touch with the show, please email:

Producers: Hannah Bewley and Rumella Dasgupta.

(Picture: a clay stove with a wood fire lit. Credit: BBC)

Pesticide exports

Thu, 30 Nov 2023

Many countries allow the manufacture and export of pesticides that are banned for use in their own countries.

Recently France and Belgium have introduced laws preventing the export of such agrochemicals if their use is banned in the European Union. The European Commission is currently considering whether to introduce similar laws.

Grace Livingstone reports from Paraguay where some small farmers living near soya plantations say heavy pesticide spraying is affecting their health and livelihoods.

We hear from the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Toxics, Marcos Orellana, who says that global pesticide regulations should be tougher.

And we speak to Emily Rees of CropLife International, which represents the agrochemical industry, who says different climates and soil conditions require different pesticides.

Produced and presented by Grace Livingstone.

(Image: a tractor spraying soybean crops. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)

Food for new mums

Thu, 23 Nov 2023

Seaweed soup, aniseed sprinkles on toast, pig trotter soup and fried chicken.

In this episode Ruth Alexander learns about what your body needs postpartum, and hears different food traditions for that time, from around the world.

Chinese-American author Heng Ou tells us about her differing experiences after the birth of her three children, and how an auntie making dumplings non-stop helped her.

Allison Oman Lawi from the World Food Programme explains the nutritional needs for the body in the weeks after giving birth and talks about how cultural traditions often get it just right.

Mengqi Wang in China tells us about her experience in a postpartum clinic and how she managed to break the strict dietary rules a few times.

If you would like to get in touch with the show, please email:

Presented by Ruth Alexander.
Produced by Hannah Bewley and Rumella Dasgupta.

(Image: A woman holds her new baby. Credit: Getty Images)

Eco scores on food labels

Thu, 16 Nov 2023

The European Union wants to introduce one system for scoring the sustainability of food products. The new requirements are likely to be introduced in 2024.

Currently there are a number of different labels and symbols used on food packaging across Europe, and there is concern that this can lead to confusion for consumers and can be open to exploitation.

Russell Padmore travels across Ireland, hearing about the pros and cons from farmers, food producers, restaurants and consumers.

If you’d like to contact the programme you can email

Produced and presented by Russell Padmore.

(Image: a woman looking at the label on a can of food, holding a shopping basket. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)

How to read a menu

Thu, 09 Nov 2023

Pan fried, artisanal, gourmet: there's a fashion for foodie words. Why?

In this episode, Ruth Alexander finds out how restaurants use language, psychology and behavioural economics to whet your appetite and increase their profits.

Linguist Dr Keri Matwick of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore explains the research that shows the longer the description of a dish, the more expensive on average it is.

Chef Caroline Martins of Sampa at Blossom Street Social Wine Bar in Manchester, England talks about the mistakes she made when she first designed her menus.

Sean Willard of Menu Engineers in California gives us an insight into the power of using a box on the menu.

And thanks to listener Simon in London who emailed with the idea for the programme. Neither he nor we will look at a menu in the same way again.

Presented by Ruth Alexander.
Produced by Beatrice Pickup.

(Image: a woman holding a menu in front of her face. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)

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