Regular updates from our Digital Content Executive, Sam Cleal


Stale Bread and Stray Dogs

31 May 2017

DEFRA plan

Guest blog by William Hatchett, EHN Editor 

Britain leaves Europe and food prices rise steeply, leading to urgent calls for national action. No, this isn’t a Brexit prediction but news from 100 years ago!

In 1917, Britain’s lack of food was a matter of grave national concern. For 3 years, we had been cut off from Europe and the world by WW1. Millions of civilians and soldiers had to be fed and it was feared that the UK would soon run out of flour, sugar and meat. King George V and Queen Mary promoted a voluntary rationing scheme. The flower beds of Buckingham Palace were dug over for vegetables and war-time economy recipes were promoted by the newly-formed Women’s Institute.

But this wasn’t enough. The nation’s first food minister was tasked with ramping up production and setting the prices of basic foodstuffs. In July 1917, a dynamic new appointee, Lord Rhondda, ordered pastureland to be ploughed for arable farming and for munitions factories to turn out tractors.

A stream of food control orders issued from his office. Maximum prices were set for meat, bread and butter, and hoarding became a criminal offence. People were discouraged from eating meals of more than 3 courses and from feeding stray dogs. Bread was to be sold slightly stale so that it could be sliced more thinly, and pastries, crumpets and teacakes were banned. These controls were enforced by sanitary inspectors and serious sentencing powers, including imprisonment.

All of this was before compulsory food rationing in 1918, and it worked. Britons did not starve. Manual labourers were paid more and enjoyed a better diet than they had done in peacetime.

Before WW1, British politicians favoured free trade and imported over 60% of food. Nowadays, on the eve of Brexit, we are still heavily dependent on food imports (50% imported, primarily from the EU).

Leaving the EU will be a massive shock to our system as food will be more expensive and less plentiful. We may even see changes in our eating habits; people are expected to eat less meat by 2019, which will not only be agronomically efficient, but good for our health and wallets too. However, British farming may become more intensive and food will be imported from further away, thus increasing food miles.

It has often been said that Britons respond well to adversity, and while it’s not likely that stale bread will come back into fashion, it is possible that Brexit will lead to a dig-for-victory, reduced gluten, sugar substituting crusade.


DEFRA Air Quality Plan - a Hollow Victory?

22 May 2017

DEFRA plan

Guest blog by William Hatchett, EHN Editor 

Everybody loves a David and Goliath struggle. ClientEarth’s recent legal battle with the Government, aimed at requiring it to act decisively to improve the UK’s air quality, attracted almost as many headlines as the simultaneous tussles over Brexit.

But the publication of Defra’s latest draft plan: Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities could be viewed as a hollow victory. Required by the High Court to come up with the document before the election, the Government’s chosen day - just as the local government election results were announced - looked like an attempt to ‘bury bad news’.

The draft plan, rather like the government’s childhood anti-obesity strategy last October, pleased few. Could it be, some asked, that Theresa May is trying to appease three special interest groups – businesses, those who are fearful for their children’s lungs and those who like driving their ‘Chelsea tractors’ on the school run?

So what does the plan say? Diesel is the villain of the piece (everyone agrees on that). Roadside emissions of nitrogen dioxide and particulates from buses, lorries, vans and diesel cars are by far the most responsible for the UK failing to meet EU air quality targets, which were the basis of the UK’s first national air quality strategy, in 1997.

The draft plan, which will lead to a final version in July, pins its hopes on extending the number of clean air zones, which first appeared on the scene in 2015 in Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton, as a result of a previous ClientEarth court case. It also focuses on road upgrades to tackle ‘pinch points’ and on research and development of technological fixes, such as cleaner burn engines and battery-powered vehicles. Charging schemes within clean air zones are included as the final and least popular option.

Campaigners are calling for diesel drivers to be more heavily taxed (they are ‘not to be punished’, says the document) and for a scrappage scheme backed by significant resources. What about the car makers who lied to us, they ask, why shouldn’t they pay? As to clean air zones, we’ll need a lot more of them, they argue. Charging and fines as introduced in London, are by far the best way to influence driver behavior; yet, they are government’s least favourite option.

We’ll be discussing these plans and more at our upcoming Challenge & Change: Air Quality Conference - book now.


The 9th Annual Housing and Health Conference

15 May 2017

CIEH Awards

Our annual Housing and Health Conference took place last week at CIEH headquarters. Now in its ninth year, the event tackled major emerging issues within the private rented sector, including surging homelessness, increasing unaffordability and insecurity of tenure.

A variety of excellent speakers illuminated a packed conference hall: Rhona Brown, private rented sector programme manager for the Greater London Authority, said there are now half a million children living in often sub-standard rented accommodation in the capital; while St Mungo’s director of rough sleeping, Petra Salva, told delegates that street homelessness in London was rising steeply and swamping services. Similarly, Carlene Thomas of Lambeth Council spoke about landlords cramming vulnerable tenants into rooms, thereby qualifying for the highest rates of housing benefit. The latter is now being tackled by the DCLG-funded Operation Lockdown.

Russell Moffatt, leading EHP, went on to further reveal the true scale of the crisis in the private rented sector. His borough of Newham had been amazed to discover that there were 26,000 landlords in operation, with half of all residents renting. A quarter of rented properties were houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and this was the sector where the worst conditions and abuses were found. As well as this, over half of landlords paid no tax on their rental income.

The issue of rogue landlords was a recurring one. London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has made housing a top priority, seeking government powers to authorise licensing schemes for private rented housing and launching a rogue landlord database later in the year. The conference also learned of new powers for councils to issue fixed penalties of up to £30,000 and to recover rent from rogue landlords, under the Housing and Planning Act 2016. David Smith of Anthony Gold solicitors strongly advocated using these powers to recover more money than ‘measly’ fines.

For more information on the Housing and Health Conference, watch our video summary on YouTube and read our June issue of EHN available from Friday 26th May. Speaker presentations are also available here.


Announcing the CIEH Excellence Awards

04 May 2017

CIEH Awards

Drum roll please… We’re proud to announce the new CIEH Excellence Awards: a brand new prestigious awards in environmental health! Taking place in November 2017, the awards will celebrate individuals, organisations and projects that are leading the way in environmental health and setting high standards.  

The Excellence Awards are now open and you can enter for free! We’re looking to reward true best practice and recognise the originality, creativity, passion and hard work of those working within the environmental health sector.  

There are 5 categories you can enter yourself, and 2 categories that require you to nominate another individual. Each category has specific entry requirements and criteria, so be sure to check before you enter. 

The Awards are your opportunity to demonstrate your work in front of an expert judging panel, and for finalists to showcase their work amongst their peers and leaders in the field. 

Judging will be carried out by a variety of expert environmental health professionals. A minimum of two judges will be assigned to each category to ensure objectivity and impartiality.  

The CIEH Excellence Awards will culminate in a stylish awards lunch held at CIEH venue, 15Hatfields, London. Register your interest now and don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to network with top environmental health professionals while you celebrate the successes and inspirational achievements in environmental health. 

You can find out more about the CIEH Excellence Awards – including event details, tips for entry, judges, categories and sponsorship opportunities – at 

Have you made a significant contribution to environmental health recently? Don’t delay… enter now! #CIEHExcellence  
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