Heritage heart attacks on a plate.

Health watchdogs are aghast as guide to traditional cuisine celebrates dishes full of fat and cholesterol
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Indy Lifestyle Online

A gastronomic map of the regions - planned by ministers to tempt the tastebuds of foreign tourists and persuade them that English food is not the culinary abomination that many suppose - was labelled a "heritage heart attack" by nutritionists yesterday.

A gastronomic map of the regions - planned by ministers to tempt the tastebuds of foreign tourists and persuade them that English food is not the culinary abomination that many suppose - was labelled a "heritage heart attack" by nutritionists yesterday.

Bakewell tart, lardy-cake and Melton Mowbray pork pies will be used to whet the appetites of overseas visitors. Clotted cream, fudge, full fat cheeses and brown ale are also to be included in a list of heavyweight delicacies guaranteed to induce an ulcer in any advocate of "healthy eating".

In less time than it takes to fry a Cumberland sausage, dietitians condemned the Culture Department's latest tourism endeavour, warning it could damage the Government's healthy eating drive.

Ministers have pledged grants of £173,000 to encourage regional tourist boards to market themselves by advertising authentic local food.

The move comes after a similar scheme to boost tourism through a film map showing locations from movies shot in this country.

The Tourism Minister, Janet Anderson, said last night: "There are many parts of the country which are famous for their food from clotted cream in Devon to mint cake in Kendal and Bury black pudding. It is a market for tourism we should exploit further and that will help local farmers and food producers.

"Food in this country used to be awful but now it is very good. We make world-famous dishes that people from abroad want to taste in the places where they are traditionally made."

But even before it goes to press, the proposed food map already has nutritionists claiming its contents could spoil Department of Health attempts to get Britons to cut fatty, sugary and cholesterol-filled food from their diets.

Although some traditional dishes, such as Lancashire hotpot and jellied eels, pose few threats to weightwatchers, a single, generous portion of Wensleydale cheese alone could blow the daily limit for saturated fats. Meanwhile, a feast of Bakewell tart and clotted cream would equal half a day's calorie intake.

Dr Wendy Doyle, spokeswoman for the British Diabetic Association, said that seen in the context of the Government's target to reduce heart disease and strokes by a third before 2030, plans for the regional map were "rather sad".

"They are highlighting all the foods which are the least healthy. They are full of fat and cholesterol. No wonder there is such a high rate of heart disease if these are the sort of things people eat.

"I think that it would create a very bad impression with tourists if they are led to believe that this is the sort of food we eat all the time."

But food historian and chef Veronica Shaw welcomed the Culture Department's map, saying it was crucial to keep faith with traditional cooking and genuine regional dishes.

"They are the traditional dishes associated with these areas because they reflect local geography and availability of ingredients," she said.

"The Thames was full of eels so they looked at ways of using them and that is why jellied eels became a regional speciality. In Scotland you had rivers full of salmon and lots of oats so that is why many dishes reflect these ingredients.

"If you go far enough back, of course, food was much healthier than it is today - honey was used as a sweetener and there was a lot less fat and much more fibre."

The real problem, Ms Shaw said, has always been steering tourists towards genuine regional foods because they are invariably buried among the many burger and pizza chains.

To counter this, some of the regions plan to launch local audits of food and drink.

That move is backed by the Consumers' Association, which is well aware of British wariness of our own cuisine, not least because of misleading labelling.

The real message is that a little bit of what you fancy is always good for you while a national tour of British food might be more than you can stomach.

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