Thursday, January 17, 2013

Horsemeat Burgers and Fostering.

Whatever you think about the news that bits of horses have turned up in supermarket burgers, the issue throws up (apologies, no pun intended) big questions for foster carers.

Because food is almost always a huge deal for the child, sometimes the biggest thing in their life.They may have been half-starved, fed nothing but takeaways, learned only to eat with their hands. 

Bear in mind though, any child can have issues about eating. I did, at junior school. I tried to be ill every Friday, because to appease all religions they served cheese pie, which made me gag.

It's not just children who are obsessed with eating; look at all the cookery books and TV shows about food.

When a new child arrives in your home, one of the things you usually get good information about is their food likes and dislikes. Rarely are we surprised.

You could almost go by a colour chart. 

Anything brown is fine (burgers, sausages, chocolate, gravy). Beige/marigold is also good: chips, crisps, anything in batter. Yellow is also okay; custard, bananas, sweetcorn, melon. Pizza (brown bits on a yellow bed on a beige crust) seems to tick every box. Reddish-brown baked beans are fine.

Anything green is bad (except grapes). Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce...most vegetables in fact. Try the pepper test sometime. Red and yellow peppers taste the same as green ones, but slice them all  into a spag boll sauce and nine times out of ten the red and yellow ones are scoffed down, the green ones end up going in the bin.

So we do battle several times a day to get a "balanced diet" into them. 

We know that the foods they like are rich in protein and carbohydrates, salt and sugar. And the ones they dislike contain the vitamins and fibre they need.

One of the questions we regularly get as foster carers is "How's the child eating?"  My usual reply is "Improving" Why? Because I find if you stick at it gently, their preferences slowly change course. It's a long haul.

But getting back to horsemeat in burgers. For me, the concern is not what sort of animal is in the burger, but which bit of the animal. Whether it's true or not, we all suspect that some burgers and sausages contain "trimmings" - the flesh and organs that butchers can't put out on the shelves for sale. We also suspect that some factory farmed livestock are fed to get them right for the market, not the human stomach, I've heard stories about things like hormones, fattening agents and generic antibiotics.

Do I give my looked-after children the full lowdown on all this? No. Hell no.

Why? Dammit they've suffered enough to be allowed to enjoy one of their only true comforting pleasures.

I'll stick to my tactic of well whizzed home made vegetable soup (comes out beige you see).

And anyway, I told my eldest about my views on processed meat and he came back after a Google session to announce that tests showed that even some organically grown fruit and vegetables contained traces of lead (from passing cars) nitrates (possibly from contaminated rainfall) and bacteria presumably from the hands of the people who grew them.

Hope I haven't put you off your next meal. Foster carers deserve to enjoy the pleasure and comfort of eating too.

The Secret Foster Carer


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