How the war changed nutrition: from there to now
Nutrition knowledge today owes much to the work done during the war. From food survey to food rationing we learnt valuable lessons regarding nutritional requirements and how these could be provided to everyone in the population at a time when many foods were scarce.
Key nutrition dates
1940 National Food Survey established
1941 Nutritional standards for school meals introduced
1942 Mandatory fortification of margarine with vitamins A and D began
1944 First Food Labelling Order
1944 First Proceedings of the Nutrition Society published
Ministry of Food (1939-1955)
The Ministry of Food was set up in 1939 to deal with the problem of providing a nutritionally adequate diet for people in Great Britain during the Second World War. It played an important role, being the ﬁrst organisation responsible for a nutrition policy in the UK. The Ministry controlled all food supplies, food reserve stocks and distribution, and had local and regional committees to give expert information and organise the use of gardens, waste land and allotments for producing food locally. The Ministry became a permanent Department of State in 1946 until 1955, when it was subsumed within the Department for Agriculture and Fisheries to become the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), which was formally dissolved in 2002, and its responsibilities were split between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Food Standards Agency (FSA).
National Food Survey (NFS)
The NFS (now known as the Family Food Survey) is the longest-running continuous survey of household food consumption and expenditure in the world. It was originally set up in 1940 by the then Ministry of Food to monitor the adequacy of the diet of urban ‘working class’ households in wartime, but it was extended in 1950 to become representative of households in wartime, throughout Great Britain. It provides a wealth of information that has made a major contribution to the study of the changing patterns of household food consumption.
During the Second World War, the British government introduced food rationing to make sure that everyone received their fair share of the limited food that was available Food rationing started in 1940 and ﬁnally ended in 1954. A system of food rationing to ensure fair distribution of available food. To ensure good health, the amounts of available foods to cover people’s nutrient needs were calculated by scientists and statisticians. The wartime food shortages forced people to adopt new eating patterns. Most people ate less meat, fat, egg s and sugar than they had eaten before, but people who had previously consumed a poor diet were able to increase their intake of protein and vitamins because they received the same ration as everybody else. Thus, many people consumed a better diet during wartime food rationing than before the war years and this had a marked effect on health outcomes; infant mortality rates declined, and the average age at which people died from natural causes increased.
- © British Nutrition Foundation 2014