Thought For Food: How to eat to protect yourself, society and the planet

Tuesday 29 May 2018, 7pm | Emmanuel Centre

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Thought For Food

You are what you eat – and right now for many of us that means a diet of high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, refined and bleached wheat, and a laundry list of chemicals used to produce our food. What we eat may be making us sick.

Take meat, for example. In many places antibiotics are used to promote weight gain and faster growth in farm animals. That helps keep prices low, but residues of the antibiotics get into the food chain – and we end up consuming them. So it should come as no surprise that these fattening agents are being linked to the epidemic of obesity among people in the rich world. That’s because antibiotics deplete the human gut microbiome, the community of trillions of minuscule organisms we carry inside us, whose importance to our health we are only just beginning to understand. Moreover, the overuse of these drugs is contributing to antibiotic resistance, meaning that many infections can no longer be cured by current medicines. Experts predict that up to 10 million people a year could soon be dying of of drug-resistant infections.

And it’s not just antibiotics that are harming us. The typical Western diet, largely made up of a narrow range of heavily processed foodstuffs, lacks the diversity we need for a healthy gut and may be responsible for the current proliferation of allergies, depression and even some cancers. And that’s not to mention the damage modern farming practices are doing to the environment, animal welfare and traditional agricultural communities.

In May 2018 Intelligence Squared brought together experts and campaigners to discuss what has gone wrong with our food industry. And we asked what choices we as consumers can make to help put things right. (Clue: it needn’t break the bank!)


Mary McCartney

Photographer, director and passionate foodie. Continuing her late mother Linda’s passion for meat-free living, her aim is to convince people that a vegetarian diet is enticing, varied, hearty and meets the needs of any occasion. Mary promotes Meat Free Monday, a not-for-profit campaign which aims to raise awareness of the detrimental environmental impact of eating meat, and to encourage people to help slow climate change, preserve precious natural resources and improve their health by having at least one meat-free day each week. Her latest body of work ‘Cooking for Artists’ chronicles her relationships through the prism of food, bringing her art and her love of food seamlessly together.

Maryn McKenna

One of America’s leading writers on food policy and public health. Her 2015 TED Talk, ‘What do we do when antibiotics don’t work any more?’ has been viewed 1.5 million times and translated into 32 languages. She is a columnist for Wired and a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. Her latest book is Plucked! The Truth About Chicken, which examines the problems at the heart of the Big Chicken industry.

Dr Megan Rossi

Clinical dietitian specialising in gut health. She leads research at King’s College London investigating nutrition-based therapies in gastrointestinal health, including pre- and probiotics, dietary fibres, the low FODMAP diet and food additives. She runs a specialist gastrointestinal health clinic on Harley Street in London and works as a consultant to the food industry. Her mission is to instil greater public trust in dietitians, making evidence-base nutrition accessible to all.

John Vincent

Co-founder and chief executive of fast food chain Leon, which has 52 restaurants across the UK and whose mission is make it easy for people to eat well on the high street. The company’s view on nutrition is based on the great American food writer Michael Pollan’s dictum: ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’.


Sheila Dillon

Award-winning food journalist and presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme. During her career she has covered the breaking scandal of BSE, the rise of GM foods, and the growth of the organic movement.



Speakers are subject to change.