Author Nicola Temple: “It was the first time I encountered food fraud

Where’s the beef. You’d be surprised

Former Sooke resident pens book on fraudulent food practices

  • Sun Jun 5th, 2016 10:00am
  • Life

The world today is a much more accessible place than ever before, so we tend to spread our roots across countries, perhaps even continents, more often.

Regardless of where we go though, we will never forget a place that brings warmth to our hearts and peace to our minds.

For former resident Nicola Temple, Sooke is such a place, which is why she’s come back to visit from the UK, where she has been living for the last five years.

Before that, she lived in Australia for three years.

“It was lovely to be back in Sooke … it’s incredibly friendly, which is something you just don’t get in the UK,” Temple said.

Having worked as a conservation biologist throughout B.C. and overseas, Temple settled in the UK, where she continues her career and a passion for scientific writing.

But then, something clicked.

When the horse meat scandal took the UK by storm, Temple found herself asking the same thing everyone else was: what is it exactly that we’re eating?

The outrage came from meat that was used in ready meals like lasagna and hamburgers were testing for 100 per cent horse meat rather than beef.

As a scholar of scientific literature and writing, Temple began looking into it with fellow co-writer Richard Evershed, an academic at the University of Bristol, who developed analytic methods in chemistry that determined how much cheaper oil had been added to corn oil to stretch it out.

The duo then came to a disturbing conclusion: what we eat is not what we always know.

“It was the first time I encountered food fraud, and it was happening in UK supermarkets, not a Third World country, with brand names you wouldn’t expect,” Temple said.

The result was their book, Sorting the Beef from the Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics, which dives into the world of food processing and how many shapes it takes before it goes into our belly.

“There’s no real issue with eating horse, it was just a matter that it was fraudulent, because it was labelled as beef,” Temple said, adding it took more than a year of research and writing until the book finally came together.

She always took a liking to science. Originally from Ontario, Temple graduated from EMCS in 1991, heading later to University of Victoria to study science and biology.

She continued living in Sooke, working at Coast Capital Savings for 10 years before leaving the Island altogether.

Now, she feels she’s finally aligned her skills with her passion.

“I love doing scientific writing, and clearly there’s an obvious hiding of cheaper ingredients going on, even on the labels, so making it for the average consumer to understand what is happening is really important,” Temple said.

As she heads back to the UK, Temple isn’t yet certain what her next book is, but will certainly focus on the cool science of what makes this big blue Earth so fascinating.