300 episodes

The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.

The Food Chain BBC World Service

    • Arts
    • 4.5 • 24 Ratings

The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.

    Inheriting grandma's pan

    Inheriting grandma's pan

    We may be living in a disposable age, but many of us probably own at least one hand-me-down pot, pan or kitchen utensil. They can be heavy and cumbersome to use but promise quality and reliability - a steadfast companion in the kitchen. They hold sentimental value too: memories of home, of loved ones who have passed, and ancestral traditions.

    In this programme, Ruth Alexander explores the history of some of these pieces, the sentimental and practical value to their owners, and the stories contained within.

    She speaks to three amateur cooks: Steven Hopper from Mississippi in the US, Alice Smith from South Wales in the UK, and Amrita Amesur in Hyderabad, India.

    We would love to hear about your precious pots and pans - please email your stories and pictures to thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk

    (Picture: An old saucepan. Credit: Getty/BBC)

    Producer: Elisabeth Mahy

    • 27 min
    Who owns seeds?

    Who owns seeds?

    Today’s seed industry is dominated by a handful of companies. Approximately 60% of the market is controlled by just four companies.

    Many of the seeds planted by farmers are controlled by international property rights or patents, that limit how they can be used. Court cases have centred around whether farmers have the right to save and reuse seeds for future harvests.

    In this programme we’ll chart the history of the seed industry, from the 19th century, when the United States government sent seeds in the post to farmers for free, to the growth of genetics in the 20th century which set the foundations for today’s market.

    Ruth Alexander is joined by Courtney Fullilove, Associate Professor of History at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, United States, and author of ‘Profit of the Earth: the global seeds of American Agriculture'; Frank Terhorst, Head of Strategy and Sustainability in the Crop Sciences Division of Bayer Global, the biggest seed company in the world; Michael Fakhri, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Professor at the Oregon University School of Law in the United States; and Dr Tamene Yohannes, from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute in Ethiopia, which works with community seed banks around the country.

    Presented by Ruth Alexander.

    Produced by Beatrice Pickup.

    (Image: a man holding a pile of seeds in two hands. Credit: Getty/BBC)

    • 28 min
    Food for mood

    Food for mood

    Mental health is a hugely complex issue with many causes. There’s no simple answer, then, when it comes to therapies for conditions like anxiety and depression. But a growing body of research is now supporting a connection between nutrition and mental health - that what you eat can have a role to play in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

    It’s an emerging field, but dietary recommendations for patients are already being made in clinical settings. Jordan Dunbar explores the scientific evidence for this, and what a ‘happier diet’ might look like.

    He speaks to Professor Felice Jacka, Director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia; US psychiatrist Dr Emily Deans; UK-based chef, Daniel Edwards, and nutritionist Dr Nada Benajiba, who’s based in Saudi Arabia.

    If you've been affected by the content of this programme, information and support is available via the BBC Action Line. Go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/actionline

    If you would like to get in touch with the show, please email: thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk

    (Picture: Woman holding a pot of mixed berries. Credit: Getty/BBC)

    Producer: Elisabeth Mahy

    • 30 min
    The flavourists

    The flavourists

    Meet the flavourists – the people who bring together art and science to create the flavours in our food. Each crisp, soft drink, or toothpaste flavour has been concocted by someone in a lab who has spent years studying why things taste good.

    In this programme, Ruth Alexander visits the International Flavour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham in the UK, where flavour chemist Professor Ian Fisk demonstrates machines that can act as an artificial nose and tongue. Historian Dr Nadia Berenstein explains how this profession began and evolved alongside the boom in consumer goods in the 20th century. And we meet a master flavourist at the top of their field – Yukiko Ando Ovesen from Japan, who works for the international flavour and fragrance firm, Firmenich.

    Presented by Ruth Alexander

    Produced by Beatrice Pickup

    (Image: girl eating doughnut with brightly coloured sprinkles. Credit: Getty/BBC)

    • 28 min
    Inside food safety scares

    Inside food safety scares

    Food contamination is a serious public health problem around the world. The World Health Organisation estimates that 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year.

    In this episode, Ruth Alexander speaks to some of the people whose lives have been shaped by serious food safety breaches and how they are working to ensure food safety and strengthen our food systems.

    She speaks to US food policy campaigner, Darin Detwiler, whose son Riley died following an E. coli outbreak in 1993, food safety consultant Lone Jespersen, and Tina Potter, head of incidents at the Food Standards Agency for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    If you would like to get in touch with the show, please email: thefoodchain@bbc.co.uk

    (Picture: Scientist inspecting meat sample in laboratory. Credit: Getty/BBC)

    Producer: Elisabeth Mahy

    • 29 min
    Tomorrow’s food crops

    Tomorrow’s food crops

    Climate change means that, in many parts of the world, the way we farm is no longer working.

    We need a larger, more diverse range of crops that perform even when the rains don’t come or, as can also be the case, when too much rain comes.

    Currently, just 15 crops make up 90% of our energy intake, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

    In this programme, we’re meeting people who are trying to develop food crops that might thrive in our changing world.

    Ruth Alexander visits the Millennium Seed Bank ran by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the UK, where Dr Chris Cockel explains their work collecting and storing seeds from the wild relatives of our staple crops. Tessa Peters, Director of Crop Stewardship at The Land Institute in Kansas, US, makes the case for creating perennial versions of our crops, in order to preserve soil health. And Dr Rebbie Harawa, regional director, Eastern and Southern Africa at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid-Tropics talks about why a currently underutilised crop – millet – could be help struggling farmers in dry areas.
    Picture: Close up of millet growing in a field; Credit: BBC/Getty

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
24 Ratings

24 Ratings

emily-d ,

Unexpected pleasure

Great host and a surprisingly rich and interesting range of topics around food

Food Chain Fan Singapore ,

Favourite podcast!

Faithfully listened to BBC food chain on radio until it stopped. So glad it is available on podcast! Love the scope that the food chain covers! Gray Jackson’s voice is also lovely I must say 😄

api@apple ,

Feast for my ears!

I absolutely love this podcast. Precise yet perfect treats to relish your food knowledge. I especially love the selection of background songs played during the show. Wish I can get the complete list of them one day. Great job BBC food chain team. Keep cooking more!

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