The many benefits of UK-grown combining peas and field beans were given a thorough airing in the House of Commons this week as the pulse industry stepped up its efforts to promote the valuable role these foodstuffs play in nutrition and sustainable food production.
The British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA), which represents processors and end-users, teamed up with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Agroecology and Labour MP, Kerry McCarthy, to host a pulse exhibition for Members of Parliament and key members of the industry on Tuesday (19th July).
It is the latest in a range of BEPA activities to promote public awareness of pulses as part of the International Year of Pulses, designated by the United Nations.
Franek Smith, Vice-President of BEPA, said: “The event has been a huge success for both BEPA and the pulse industry, benefiting everyone from farmer to retailer.
“We came to highlight the value of these often-overlooked foodstuffs to MPs and how they fit into the modern diet. We outlined their value as healthy, high-protein high-fibre foods, the fact they are very affordable and why they should be a regular part of everyone’s diet. We explained how they reduce cholesterol while providing essential proteins and amino acids.
“We also explained the sustainability of these crops, including how they benefit the environment by fixing their own nitrogen in the soil and the key role they play on many modern UK arable farms.”
Guests were able to try UK-manufactured pulse snacks as well as a range of pulse canapes prepared by The Gate Restaurant, Islington, one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the country.
“The general reaction was surprise that these products are available, how healthy they are and how affordable they are,” Mr Smith said.
That knowledge would help spread the message and raise public awareness to benefit the pulse industry, he added. “The aim was to start the education at the top of the public sector, which will cause the news to filter down.”
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “From lentils to beans – British pulses are becoming ever more popular on menus and in shopping trolleys across the country as people increasingly adopt more healthy eating options.
“As well as playing an important role in health and nutrition, protein-rich pulses are important for food security and environmental sustainability.
“I’m delighted to be supporting 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.”
Ms McCarthy said: “The British pulse sector has been neglected and overlooked for too long, so I am pleased to support efforts this year to promote our home-grown pulses – to help encourage healthier diets and move towards a more sustainable food and farming system.
“I am delighted to be co-hosting this event with the Agroecology APPG, as part of the UN’s International Year of Pulses, to showcase the best of British pulse growers and suppliers.”
Mr Smith added: “2016 was declared International Year of Pulses by the United Nations to promote awareness of pulses and one of BEPA’s key objectives is to liaise with UK government and other associations to encourage the consumption of home-produced pulses. The IYP initiative has certainly helped us do that.”
Other events in BEPA’s IYP programme have included the London Falafel festival, activities with Kids Country (the East of England Agricultural Society’s food and farming education programme for young people) and various school days.
Further activities include a pulses special on the Radio 4 Food Programme. “All of these will help put pulses very much in the public eye,” said Mr Smith.