Category Archives: Heartburn

Ex-footballer Terry Butcher accuses British army of failing his son

The former England football captain Terry Butcher has accused the British army of failing his son, who died after developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Butcher told an inquest on Monday that Christopher, 35, had turned to alcohol and drugs after being discharged from the armed forces in April 2015, due to the mental health condition.

“Christopher passed away several months ago. But, in reality, the Chris that we all knew and loved had ceased to exist years before,” Butcher told Ipswich coroner’s court.

“Diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, his life spiralled downwards as the demons took control of his mind. In truth after intense tours of Iraq and Afghanistan he became a victim of war.

“These circumstances are all too familiar. Our country has a number of veterans suffering from the same condition, released from the armed forces too early and having to rely on an overloaded NHS that is ill-equipped and underfunded to cope.”

Butcher, who struggled to hold back tears during the hearing, said the armed forces’ duty of care towards personnel had been “discarded too easily, which has resulted in a growing number of our veterans turning to anything that might help including alcohol, drugs and suicide as a means of alleviating the flashbacks and nightmares”.

The inquest heard how Christopher, a former captain in the Royal Artillery, had been haunted by nightmares and flashbacks about the deaths of comrades and civilians in Afghanistan.

Butcher found his son’s body wedged between his bed and a wall when he went to check on him on the morning of 16 October last year at his home in Suffolk.

A postmortem failed to identify Christopher’s cause of death, but found he had an enlarged heart, which could have been caused by drug use. Toxicology tests revealed he had non-lethal levels of cocaine and heroin in his body, as well as prescription drugs he had been taking for several years. A makeshift crack pipe in a sunglasses case was also found in his room.

Suffolk’s assistant coroner, Dr Dan Sharpstone, concluded that Christopher died from an enlarged heart due to uncertain causes with a background of drug use and PTSD.

Butcher remembered his son as a man who had a “glittering career in the army ahead of him, a loving wife and dreams of having children of his own. His unnecessary death has deprived us of a wonderful son, husband, brother and grandson, friend and comrade”.

Sharpstone said: “When people serve in the armed forces, they give everything in the defence of our country and this may result in death or serious injury. However, it can also result in PTSD.”

  • In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Ex-footballer Terry Butcher accuses British army of failing his son

The former England football captain Terry Butcher has accused the British army of failing his son, who died after developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Butcher told an inquest on Monday that Christopher, 35, had turned to alcohol and drugs after being discharged from the armed forces in April 2015, due to the mental health condition.

“Christopher passed away several months ago. But, in reality, the Chris that we all knew and loved had ceased to exist years before,” Butcher told Ipswich coroner’s court.

“Diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, his life spiralled downwards as the demons took control of his mind. In truth after intense tours of Iraq and Afghanistan he became a victim of war.

“These circumstances are all too familiar. Our country has a number of veterans suffering from the same condition, released from the armed forces too early and having to rely on an overloaded NHS that is ill-equipped and underfunded to cope.”

Butcher, who struggled to hold back tears during the hearing, said the armed forces’ duty of care towards personnel had been “discarded too easily, which has resulted in a growing number of our veterans turning to anything that might help including alcohol, drugs and suicide as a means of alleviating the flashbacks and nightmares”.

The inquest heard how Christopher, a former captain in the Royal Artillery, had been haunted by nightmares and flashbacks about the deaths of comrades and civilians in Afghanistan.

Butcher found his son’s body wedged between his bed and a wall when he went to check on him on the morning of 16 October last year at his home in Suffolk.

A postmortem failed to identify Christopher’s cause of death, but found he had an enlarged heart, which could have been caused by drug use. Toxicology tests revealed he had non-lethal levels of cocaine and heroin in his body, as well as prescription drugs he had been taking for several years. A makeshift crack pipe in a sunglasses case was also found in his room.

Suffolk’s assistant coroner, Dr Dan Sharpstone, concluded that Christopher died from an enlarged heart due to uncertain causes with a background of drug use and PTSD.

Butcher remembered his son as a man who had a “glittering career in the army ahead of him, a loving wife and dreams of having children of his own. His unnecessary death has deprived us of a wonderful son, husband, brother and grandson, friend and comrade”.

Sharpstone said: “When people serve in the armed forces, they give everything in the defence of our country and this may result in death or serious injury. However, it can also result in PTSD.”

  • In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

London hospitals to replace doctors and nurses with AI for some tasks

One of the country’s biggest hospitals has unveiled sweeping plans to use artificial intelligence to carry out tasks traditionally performed by doctors and nurses, from diagnosing cancer on CT scans to deciding which A&E patients are seen first.

The three-year partnership between University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Alan Turing Institute aims to bring the benefits of the machine learning revolution to the NHS on an unprecedented scale.

Prof Bryan Williams, director of research at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that the move could have a major impact on patient outcomes, drawing parallels with the transformation of the consumer experience by companies such as Amazon and Google.

“It’s going to be a game-changer,” he said. “You can go on your phone and book an airline ticket, decide what movies you’re going to watch or order a pizza … it’s all about AI,” he said. “On the NHS, we’re nowhere near sophisticated enough. We’re still sending letters out, which is extraordinary.”

At the heart of the partnership, in which UCLH is investing a “substantial” but unnamed sum, is the belief that machine learning algorithms can provide new ways of diagnosing disease, identifying people at risk of illness and directing resources. In theory, doctors and nurses could be responsively deployed on wards, like Uber drivers gravitating to locations with the highest demand at certain times of day. But the move will also trigger concerns about privacy, cyber security and the shifting role of health professionals.

The first project will focus on improving the hospital’s accident and emergency department, which like many hospitals is failing to meet government waiting time targets.

“Our performance this year has fallen short of the four-hour wait, which is no reflection on the dedication and commitment of our staff,” said Prof Marcel Levi, UCLH chief executive. “[It’s] an indicator of some of the other things in the entire chain concerning the flow of acute patients in and out the hospital that are wrong.”

In March, just 76.4% of patients needing urgent care were treated within four hours at hospital A&E units in England in March – the lowest proportion since records began in 2010.

Using data taken from thousands of presentations, a machine learning algorithm might indicate, for instance, whether a patient with abdomen pain was likely to be suffering from a severe problem, like intestinal perforation or a systemic infection, and fast-track those patients preventing their condition from becoming critical.

“Machines will never replace doctors, but the use of data, expertise and technology can radically change how we manage our services – for the better,” said Levi.

Another project, already underway, aims to identify patients who are are likely to fail to attend appointments. A consultant neurologist at the hospital, Parashkev Nachev, has used data including factors such as age, address and weather conditions to predict with 85% accuracy whether a patient will turn up for outpatient clinics and MRI scans.

In the next phase, the department will trial interventions, such as sending reminder texts and allocating appointments to maximise chances of attendance.

“We’re going to test how well it goes,” said Williams. “Companies use this stuff to predict human behaviour all the time.”

Other projects include applying machine learning to the analysis of the CT scans of 25,000 former smokers who are being recruited as part of a research project and looking at whether the assessment of cervical smear tests can be automated. “There are people who have to look at those all day to see if it looks normal or abnormal,” said Williams.

Might staff resent ceding certain duties to computers – or even taking instructions from them? Prof Chris Holmes, director for health at the Alan Turing Institute, said the hope is that doctors and nurses will be freed up to spend more time with patients. “We want to take out the more mundane stuff which is purely information driven and allow time for things the human expert is best at,” he said.

When implementing new decision-making tools, the hospital will need to guard against “learned helplessness”, where people become so reliant on automated instructions that they abandon common sense. While an algorithm might be correct 99.9% of the time, according to Holmes, “once in a blue moon it makes a howler”. “You want to quantify the risk of that,” he added.

UCLH is aiming to circumvent privacy concerns that have overshadowed previous collaborations, including that of the Royal Free Hospital in London and Google’s DeepMind, in which the hospital inadvertently shared the health records of 1.6 million identifiable patients. Under the new partnership, algorithms will be trained on the hospital’s own servers to avoid any such breaches and private companies will not be involved, according to Holmes.

“We’re critically aware of patient sensitivity of data governance,” he said. “Any algorithms we develop will be purely in-house.”

Questions also remain about the day-to-day reality of integrating sophisticated AI software with hospital IT systems, which are already criticised for being clunky and outdated. And there will be concerns about whether the move to transfer decision-making powers to algorithms would make hospitals even more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hospital IT systems were brought to a standstill last year after becoming victim to a global ransomware attack that resulted in operations being cancelled, ambulances being diverted and patient records being unavailable.

Williams acknowledged that adapting NHS IT systems would be a challenge, but added “if this works and we demonstrate we can dramatically change efficiency, the NHS will have to adapt.”

London hospitals to replace doctors and nurses with AI for some tasks

One of the country’s biggest hospitals has unveiled sweeping plans to use artificial intelligence to carry out tasks traditionally performed by doctors and nurses, from diagnosing cancer on CT scans to deciding which A&E patients are seen first.

The three-year partnership between University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Alan Turing Institute aims to bring the benefits of the machine learning revolution to the NHS on an unprecedented scale.

Prof Bryan Williams, director of research at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that the move could have a major impact on patient outcomes, drawing parallels with the transformation of the consumer experience by companies such as Amazon and Google.

“It’s going to be a game-changer,” he said. “You can go on your phone and book an airline ticket, decide what movies you’re going to watch or order a pizza … it’s all about AI,” he said. “On the NHS, we’re nowhere near sophisticated enough. We’re still sending letters out, which is extraordinary.”

At the heart of the partnership, in which UCLH is investing a “substantial” but unnamed sum, is the belief that machine learning algorithms can provide new ways of diagnosing disease, identifying people at risk of illness and directing resources. In theory, doctors and nurses could be responsively deployed on wards, like Uber drivers gravitating to locations with the highest demand at certain times of day. But the move will also trigger concerns about privacy, cyber security and the shifting role of health professionals.

The first project will focus on improving the hospital’s accident and emergency department, which like many hospitals is failing to meet government waiting time targets.

“Our performance this year has fallen short of the four-hour wait, which is no reflection on the dedication and commitment of our staff,” said Prof Marcel Levi, UCLH chief executive. “[It’s] an indicator of some of the other things in the entire chain concerning the flow of acute patients in and out the hospital that are wrong.”

In March, just 76.4% of patients needing urgent care were treated within four hours at hospital A&E units in England in March – the lowest proportion since records began in 2010.

Using data taken from thousands of presentations, a machine learning algorithm might indicate, for instance, whether a patient with abdomen pain was likely to be suffering from a severe problem, like intestinal perforation or a systemic infection, and fast-track those patients preventing their condition from becoming critical.

“Machines will never replace doctors, but the use of data, expertise and technology can radically change how we manage our services – for the better,” said Levi.

Another project, already underway, aims to identify patients who are are likely to fail to attend appointments. A consultant neurologist at the hospital, Parashkev Nachev, has used data including factors such as age, address and weather conditions to predict with 85% accuracy whether a patient will turn up for outpatient clinics and MRI scans.

In the next phase, the department will trial interventions, such as sending reminder texts and allocating appointments to maximise chances of attendance.

“We’re going to test how well it goes,” said Williams. “Companies use this stuff to predict human behaviour all the time.”

Other projects include applying machine learning to the analysis of the CT scans of 25,000 former smokers who are being recruited as part of a research project and looking at whether the assessment of cervical smear tests can be automated. “There are people who have to look at those all day to see if it looks normal or abnormal,” said Williams.

Might staff resent ceding certain duties to computers – or even taking instructions from them? Prof Chris Holmes, director for health at the Alan Turing Institute, said the hope is that doctors and nurses will be freed up to spend more time with patients. “We want to take out the more mundane stuff which is purely information driven and allow time for things the human expert is best at,” he said.

When implementing new decision-making tools, the hospital will need to guard against “learned helplessness”, where people become so reliant on automated instructions that they abandon common sense. While an algorithm might be correct 99.9% of the time, according to Holmes, “once in a blue moon it makes a howler”. “You want to quantify the risk of that,” he added.

UCLH is aiming to circumvent privacy concerns that have overshadowed previous collaborations, including that of the Royal Free Hospital in London and Google’s DeepMind, in which the hospital inadvertently shared the health records of 1.6 million identifiable patients. Under the new partnership, algorithms will be trained on the hospital’s own servers to avoid any such breaches and private companies will not be involved, according to Holmes.

“We’re critically aware of patient sensitivity of data governance,” he said. “Any algorithms we develop will be purely in-house.”

Questions also remain about the day-to-day reality of integrating sophisticated AI software with hospital IT systems, which are already criticised for being clunky and outdated. And there will be concerns about whether the move to transfer decision-making powers to algorithms would make hospitals even more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hospital IT systems were brought to a standstill last year after becoming victim to a global ransomware attack that resulted in operations being cancelled, ambulances being diverted and patient records being unavailable.

Williams acknowledged that adapting NHS IT systems would be a challenge, but added “if this works and we demonstrate we can dramatically change efficiency, the NHS will have to adapt.”

Italy’s far right use Irish vote to boost anti-abortion campaign

Activists and far-right politicians have seized on Italy’s low birth rate and the attention on Ireland’s referendum on abortion to boost their pro-life campaign.

As the 40th anniversary of Italy’s legalisation of abortion approaches, the renewed effort also comes as the far-right League, which contains many anti-abortion militants, stands on the brink of forming a government with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement following inconclusive general elections in March.

Ahead of the 22 May anniversary, ProVita, the Italian pro-life association, has published a booklet repeating debunked claims that women who have an abortion could be more prone to breast cancer and suicide or become alcoholics or drug addicts.

Quick guide

The Irish abortion referendum

The Irish abortion referendum

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Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/X03756

The move came after authorities in Rome covered up a huge poster featuring an 11-week-old foetus in the womb on a wall in the Vatican area in April. A message alongside the image said: “You are here because your mother has not aborted you.”

“The plan was to intensify the campaign ahead of the anniversary,” said Alessandro Fiore, a spokesman for ProVita. “But we increased it even more after the poster was censored; we were contacted by many people from across Italy who wanted to do something similar in their towns. The Irish referendum, by chance, also helps to strengthen our message.”

Toni Brandi, the president of ProVita, joined counterparts in Ireland on a recent visit, as the country prepares for a landmark referendum on liberalising strict abortion laws on 25 May.

Italians voted to legalise abortion in a similar plebiscite in 1978. But 70.4% of gynaecologists still refuse to terminate pregnancies for moral reasons, which means it is almost impossible for women to access a safe procedure. That number is around 90% in southern regions, while in the central Molise region only one doctor carries out terminations. Last year a woman in Padua, a city in the northern Veneto region, had to visit 23 hospitals before finding one that would end her pregnancy. Doctors in Rome who do not object to the procedure are banned from going for jobs at hospitals managed by the Vatican.

Politicians from the League and smaller far-right party Brothers of Italy are helping to galvanise the pro-life campaign. Massimiliano Romeo, a senator with the League, said: “Six million children have been killed in the womb [since 1978], then they say we have to import migrants to boost the population.”

If the League succeeds in entering government, the party has pledged to make it a priority to better inform women of what they say are the physical and psychological consequences of abortion.

But claims that abortion leads to depression and suicide, causes cancer and affects future fertility have long been dismissed by medical organisations.

Emma Bonino, a politician who had an illegal abortion at a young age, was at the forefront of bringing about the enactment of the so-called Law 94. Until 1978, illegal abortions were the third-biggest cause of death for women in Italy.

“The campaigning by this group is nothing new,” Bonino, a former foreign minister, said. “They have been there for the last 40 years, as a minority movement – they have the right to exist and express their opinion but we have always managed to fight them. Our duty now is to fight organised conscientious objection – which actually has nothing to do with conscientiously objecting but career.”

Many medics fear being pushed out of the system or not being hired if they perform abortions. And those that do are often shamed. In the late 1990s a doctor killed himself after being exposed for terminating pregnancies in secret.

Ministry of Health data shows that the number of abortions performed each year fell from 233,976 in 1983 to 84,926 in 2016, while the number of moral objectors has risen. Unwanted pregnancies also significantly decreased after Law 94 was introduced, as people could avail themselves of information about contraception which until then had been forbidden thanks to a ban stemming from the Benito Mussolini-era.

There is no data available on the real demand for abortion or on the numbers carried out illegally. In recent years a significant demand is said to come from migrant women who have been forced into prostitution.

Silvana Agatone, a gynaecologist in Rome who does not object, said one of the reasons the health ministry is able to register a decline is because medics who once performed abortions, and who were required to report each procedure, have retired.

“They no longer get as many report cards each month but it doesn’t mean to say women are no longer having abortions,” she said. “It means that illegal abortions are increasing.”

There are fears that access to safe abortion will become even more difficult in future, as fewer medical students are receiving training.

“The Catholic-right has conquered the hospitals – there are so many militants,” said Elisabetta Canitano, a gynaecologist and president of the feminist association Vita di Donna.

“Even if the foetus is incompatible with life – they say ‘God sent it, so God will take it when he decides’. They insist that the woman must go ahead with the pregnancy, even if the child is then sent to a hospice to die.”

Why limiting fixed-odds betting terminals is a busted flush | Adam Bradford

Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have been dubbed the crack cocaine of betting, having destroyed thousands of lives over the past few years and become the topic of heated public debate. On Thursday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport finally ruled that the stakes on the highly addictive machines should be cut from a staggering £100 every 20 seconds to £2. The B2 machines exist in betting shops around the country and are a staple product for the industry; a large proportion of its profits depend on the income from these machines.


My father, David, 61, had a gambling habit, which he concealed from his family, that eventually landed him in prison

The ruling has been reached following bitter divides within government, and it is still weak in some key areas. For years, myself and others have campaigned for gambling reforms in this country. My father, David, 61, had a gambling habit, which he concealed from his family, that eventually landed him in prison. He stole £53,000 from his employers after making his way through a succession of payday loans, bank loans, credit cards and borrowing. He even remortgaged the family home in secret to keep his addiction from us. I do not blame the industry for his behaviour, but know that the addictive nature of its products lured him in, and he unfortunately became hooked.

Even while he was behind bars, his inbox was flooded with thousands of emails from firms enticing him to bet; some even sent premium-rate text messages to him in a bid to bring him back to gamble with them. This harassment of gamblers through non-stop advertising on TV, radio and online is insidious and needs to stop.

Quick guide

What you need to know about FOBTs

What are FOBTs?

Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are machines, found largely in bookmakers and betting shops, that allow customers to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds on digital versions of games such as roulette.

How many are there?

The UK has 33,611 FOBTs, each of which take more than £53,000 from gamblers per year.

Why are they considered a problem?

Critics of FOBTs say they are particularly addictive, allow gamblers to rack up huge losses within a few hours, and are concentrated in deprived areas. They have also been linked to money laundering.

We are taking gambling addiction off the high streets and sending it online. The government has missed a trick in its regulation reforms. The Gambling Commission last year reported that online gambling was a growing area and that 18- to 24-year-olds would suffer the most. Reports showed us how advertising techniques used by the industry could entice youngsters into betting from a young age, further acclimatising them to their products, ready to make them long-term customers.

According to the charity GambleAware, 50% of all gambling is now conducted online. Its report from summer last year also showed that unemployed young men were most at risk of developing a gambling problem through the internet. I have had countless social media adverts targeted at me because I’ve been talking about gambling. I have seen how the industry uses these ads to entice young people who are not of gambling age into games with fascinating cartoons. The government should put its foot down and have these enticements stopped.

There was a 600% rise in gambling adverts between 2007 and 2012, according to research by Ofcom. I have no doubt that their pervasiveness, links to football games and heavy sponsorship of sports matches will encourage a new generation of gamblers, once FOBTs are no longer the gambling machines of choice. With this decision the government has assessed actual harm rather than potential for harm, and has taken a long time to come up with its toothless recommendation that the industry should run its own responsible gambling campaign.

Successive governments have failed gambling addicts – it is after all the Labour administration who deregulated this industry in the first place. A leisure industry such as gambling should not be able to take wreck family life. It should not be able to dominate the high streets or the internet. The industry is under scrutiny now and this regulation is only the start of what I hope will be a raft of strict measures to ensure gambling no longer causes misery in this country.

Adam Bradford is a social entrepreneur and campaigner for social and humanitarian issues

Suffer hay fever? Don’t blow your nose | Brief letters

It’s not just trees (We can’t chop down all these trees and not harm ourselves, 15 May). The railway ecosystem includes many other types of plant. On my trips from Winchester to Waterloo in the 1960s, I saw everlasting peas (Lathyrus latifolius) in full flower, cascading down the banks. There are still pockets of plant diversity on the route between Cambridge and King’s Cross, thanks to Margaret Fuller, wife of the crossing keeper at Shepreth, as recorded in The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Gardeners (ed Deborah Kellaway; 1995).
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge

David Cox offers some good advice (Seven ways to deal with hay fever, G2, 14 May) but misses out the real game-changer. Hay fever sufferers must not blow their noses. Everyone seems to know not to rub an irritated eye, but not that blowing has much the same effect on the nasal passages – congestion, irritation, and more discharge.
Dr Stuart Handysides
(Retired GP), Ware, Hertfordshire

Woody Guthrie’s words of long ago apply: Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen (Carillion fall blamed on hubris and greed, 16 May). Why no prosecutions?
Huw Kyffin
Canterbury

Is it my imagination or is the royal romance, and lead-up to the wedding, beginning to sound a little like the plot of Notting Hill Part II (Markle’s father ‘may miss her wedding after surgery’, 16 May)?
Tony Hart
Formby, Merseyside

Who is giving Prince Harry away?
Marion McNaughton
Warburton, Cheshire

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Suffer hay fever? Don’t blow your nose | Brief letters

It’s not just trees (We can’t chop down all these trees and not harm ourselves, 15 May). The railway ecosystem includes many other types of plant. On my trips from Winchester to Waterloo in the 1960s, I saw everlasting peas (Lathyrus latifolius) in full flower, cascading down the banks. There are still pockets of plant diversity on the route between Cambridge and King’s Cross, thanks to Margaret Fuller, wife of the crossing keeper at Shepreth, as recorded in The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Gardeners (ed Deborah Kellaway; 1995).
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge

David Cox offers some good advice (Seven ways to deal with hay fever, G2, 14 May) but misses out the real game-changer. Hay fever sufferers must not blow their noses. Everyone seems to know not to rub an irritated eye, but not that blowing has much the same effect on the nasal passages – congestion, irritation, and more discharge.
Dr Stuart Handysides
(Retired GP), Ware, Hertfordshire

Woody Guthrie’s words of long ago apply: Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen (Carillion fall blamed on hubris and greed, 16 May). Why no prosecutions?
Huw Kyffin
Canterbury

Is it my imagination or is the royal romance, and lead-up to the wedding, beginning to sound a little like the plot of Notting Hill Part II (Markle’s father ‘may miss her wedding after surgery’, 16 May)?
Tony Hart
Formby, Merseyside

Who is giving Prince Harry away?
Marion McNaughton
Warburton, Cheshire

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Industrial trans fats must be removed from food supply, WHO says

Trans fats used in snack foods, baked foods and fried foods are responsible for half a million deaths worldwide each year and must be eliminated from the global food supply, the World Health Organization says today.

Most of western Europe has already acted to reduce industrially made trans fats from factory-made foods. Denmark, like New York, which followed its lead, has an outright ban. Big food companies elsewhere have been under intense pressure to use substitutes.

In the UK, the latest national diet and nutrition survey shows average intake of trans fats is well below the recommended upper limit of 2% of food energy, at 0.5-0.7%. Although companies manufacturing processed food in the UK do not use trans fats any more, the fats are in some cheap foods imported from other countries.

The WHO is calling on all governments to take action, including passing laws or regulations to rid their food supply of industrial trans fats. Director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said eliminating trans fats would “represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease”.

The WHO is targeting industrially made trans fats, but trans fats are also contained in milk, butter and cheese derived from ruminants, mainly cows and sheep.

Dr Francesco Branca, director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, said the amounts we eat in dairy products are unlikely to breach the health guidelines.

“We are saying that trans fats contained in those products have the same effect as industrial trans fats – we are not able to tell the difference,” he said. “But the amount contained in dairy products is much less.”

Quick guide

Processed foods

These are some of the UK’s best-selling ultra-processed foods

Mr Kipling Angel slices

Batchelors Super Noodles

McVitie’s digestive biscuits

Kelloggs Rice Krispies

Walkers cheese and onion crisps

Cadbury’s Crunchie

Haribo sweets

These are the ingredients in Mr Kipling Angel slices

Sugar Listed first, so it is the biggest ingredient. Each slice contains 13.2g of sugar, which is 15% of an adult’s recommended daily intake

Vegetable oils (rapeseed, palm) Rapeseed oil is healthy, but palm oil is a highly saturated fat, widely used in industrially-produced foods because of its very low cost

Wheat flour (with added calcium, iron, niacin, thiamin) Added vitamins but this is finely milled white flour

Water

Glucose syrup Another form of sugar, made from maize in the USA, where it is called corn syrup, or from potatoes and wheat

Humectant (vegetable glycerine) Reduces moisture loss

Dextrose Another form of sugar

Dried egg white

Whey powder (milk) Gives texture

Vegetable fat (palm) Cheap form of saturated fat

Maize starch Often used as an anti-caking agent in sugars

Skimmed milk powder

Raising agents (disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate)

Emulsifiers (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, sorbitan monostearate, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, soya lecithin, polysorbate 60) Emulsifiers are additives used to stabilise processed foods

Tapioca starch Thickening agent derived from cassava roots

Salt

Stabiliser (xanthan gum) Made from fermented sugars. Prevents ingredients from separating

Preservative (potassium sorbate)

Milk protein Can be used in industrially-made sponge cakes to replace egg, giving volume, elasticity and texture

Flavourings

Gelling agent (sodium alginate) This is E401, extracted from brown seaweed and used as a stabiliser in cream

Colours (titanium dioxide, cochineal, lutein) Titanium dioxide is an additive used in paint but also massively in food to give a white colour. Cochineal is the red colouring derived from insects. Lutein is yellow colouring extracted from marigolds

Acid (acetic acid) A leavening ingredient in baked goods when combined with baking soda

The WHO is saying that trans fats should be limited to less than 1% of food energy, which it equates to a maximum of 2.2g of trans fats in a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

To get 2.2g of trans fatty acids, you would have to eat 150g of 30% saturated fat cheese or 50g of butter. “How many people eat 50g of butter?” asked Branca. “You can have your cheese, your butter or your litre of milk. That is fine.” Lower-fat milk is also better than high-fat.

Trans fats are more common in eastern Europe and particularly in countries like India, where they are in vanaspati, a type of vegetable ghee.

Recent guidance on saturated fats from the WHO said they should be limited to 10% of food energy per day. There are still issues over the fats used as substitutes for trans fatty acids in processed meals and cakes and pastries. The WHO says they should be polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils. But palm oil and coconut oil are cheap and much used and contain high proportions of saturated fat.

The International Food and Beverage Alliance, which represents food giants such as Mars, McDonald’s, Nestlé and PepsiCo, says it is complying with efforts to eliminate industrial trans fats. “Two years ago, IFBA member companies committed to reduce industrially produced trans fat in their products worldwide to nutritionally insignificant levels by the end of 2018,” said its secretary general, Rocco Renaldi. “Our progress has been significant – at the end of 2017, on an aggregated basis, we estimate that industrially produced trans fat had been removed from 98.8% of IFBA companies’ global product portfolios.”

He said the group “call on all food producers in all sectors to join the effort to achieve this public health priority”.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Voluntary removal of trans fats by manufacturers in the UK has paid dividends when it comes to our intakes. National dietary surveys show that intakes have reduced since 2007 and the amount we are consuming is well below the recommended maximums for the UK.

“If industrially produced trans fats are removed from foods this is positive, but if they are being replaced with saturated fats we would be concerned. We know that saturated fat consumption is in excess of UK guidelines and diets high in saturated fat are linked to raised cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases.”

Tessa Jowell’s family hail increased brain cancer funding

Tessa Jowell’s family have hailed a government decision to double funding for brain cancer research and roll out better diagnostic tests to all NHS hospitals in tribute to the former Labour cabinet minister, saying they hoped it could help other people survive the illness.

The decision was announced by Theresa May and the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, after it was announced that Jowell, who had spent the last months of her life campaigning for better treatment and diagnosis for those with brain cancer, had died aged 70.

No 10 announced it would fulfil two of Jowell’s key campaign aims, including a national rollout of a brain cancer diagnosis test, gold standard dye, used to identify tumours. The method is used in only half of brain cancer centres in England.

Her husband, David Mills, said the family was hugely proud of what Jowell had achieved.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “She had an extraordinarily successful career in politics, and then somehow after this disease struck her she added another 25% to it, in what she’s done to publicise the shortage of research for brain cancer, and to give people hope that they wouldn’t have had.”

Jowell had sought immunotherapy treatment in Germany, and had been hoping to try a vaccine made from the DNA of her tumour, but died 36 hours after suffering a haemorrhage, Mills said.

“One thing she said was, ‘If I can just survive two years at a time, or even a year at a time, new things will come along and it’ll give us new hope,’” he said.

“And I think that is, in a sense, the message that is coming out now – that with this wonderful initiative from the government there will be more impetus into the research that’s necessary, and people who suffer from this disease will have a growing chance to survive.”

Jowell’s daughter, Jessie Mills, said her mother had been active and in good spirits until the haemorrhage, and died peacefully.

“We were with her every single moment,” she said. “We didn’t let her go for the whole of the last couple of days that she was very, very ill. We literally laid next to her, kissing her, holding her, telling her how much we loved her.”

She added: “It’s the greatest honour of my life to be her daughter, and the way she was until the last moments was just so courageous and brave.”

Speaking earlier on Today, Hunt said the message from Jowell had been an important one: “When it comes to rarer cancers, the issue is attracting the research funding for high quality research projects. And what Tessa identified was that we’re not putting enough into research, which is why what we’re announcing today will, we hope, catalyse more funding into research.”

Downing Street has said it hoped the first symposium would take place by the end of the year. The work to fulfil the commitments will be led by health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy.

Jowell met May and Hunt in Downing Street in February, when they unveiled a new £45m brain cancer research fund, with new government funding of £20m over five years.

That has now been doubled with more new money to £40m, which will bring the total research fund to £65m, including £25m from Cancer Research UK and £13m of regular funding.

The government also said it would speed up the use of adaptive trials – another key ask by Jowell during her House of Lords speech. “New adaptive trials can test many treatments at the same time,” she said. “They speed up the process and save a lot of money.”