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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
'Stocking up' in the 21st Century
Spam was introduced during WWII
Amid government suggestions that families should "stock up" in case of a terror attack, BBC News Online looks at what the average family might store and how food options have changed down the years.

Britons being encouraged to "stock up" on provisions recalls the food shortages and rationing of World War II.

One egg
Jam - 56g
Meat - 224g
Bacon - 12g
Tea - 56g
Butter - 56g
Lard or margarine - 168g
Milk - 3 pints (1.8 litres)
Sugar - 224g
Cheese - up to 56g
Source: Imperial War Museum

Most of the food available then was perishable, though the introduction of Spam from the US and Argentina allowed people to save processed meat to supplement their diets.

Nigel Steel, head of research at the Imperial War Museum, says it was also difficult to stock up because it looked bad at a time of little food.

"It was a very egalitarian time, everyone's difficulties were the same.

"Now, if everyone went out and bought 10 cans of beans each, it would just be a good day for Heinz."

'Protect and survive'

The fear of a nuclear attack in the 70s and 80s prompted the distribution of a government leaflet on surviving an explosion.

Protect and Survive outlined food essentials for a "fall-out room".

Illustration of tinned food
An image from 'Protect and Survive'
This included enough drinking water for 14 days - with two pints a day for each person to drink, plus two pints per person for washing.

Advice said water had to be stocked well in advance of an attack, as it was likely the mains water supply would be cut off afterwards.

It also recommended enough food to last a fortnight, including tinned or powdered milk for children and baby food - all to be stored in a closed cupboard or cabinet.

Just last year the British Red Cross issued advice on preparing for an emergency. This included packing an emergency box containing high energy food, bottled water, a first aid kit, medicines, radio and a torch and spare batteries.

The Home Office also offers similar advice suggesting members of the public have tinned food and water handy, among other useful items.

Brigid McKevith, a nutritionist at the British Nutrition Foundation, advises what might be kept for a family of four.

Water - around 25 litres
Breakfast cereal - 1-2 boxes
UHT milk - 6 x large tetra paks
Canned tuna x 12
Canned corn x 12
Canned meat (e.g. ham or corned beef) x 12
Canned chicken & mushroom pie x 12
Canned vegetables x 20
Canned potatoes x 12
Canned baked beans with sausages x 6
Canned fruit (e.g. pears, peaches) in juice x 18
Canned creamed rice or tapioca x 6
Custard 2 large tetra paks
Chocolate bars x 6 large
Dried apricots x 2 bags
Source: British Nutrition Foundation

She said supplies could also include long life orange juice, canned pasta, another canned fish and another canned meat, nuts and other dried fruit for snacks.

Nutritionist Amanda Wynne, at the British Dietetic Association, said the main issue facing people today would be fridge and freezer space, providing there was still electricity, and also storage space.

"Some people live in very small flats so the issue would be whether they can keep enough supplies."

"If people were without electricity, then they really need to go for tinned, dried and packed foods, that have a long shelf-life.

"I think it is possible now to get an adequate nutritional intake from long-life food."

'Survival hamper'?

For those who still want the finer things in life a Fortnum and Mason's "survival hamper" could be an option.

Food hamper
An emergency hamper could be used to help families 'stock up'.
Fortnum's compiled a mock selection of staples including sesame seed wafers and pistachio nuts.

A range of preserves, including marmalade and peach and raspberry preserve, were also chosen.

The rest of the hamper included Welsh heather honey, mocha coffee caddy, a traditional biscuit selection, pistachio nuts, a milk chocolate selection, vintage port and of course Royal blend tea.

The store's Yvonne Isherwood said: "The selection would not prove too nourishing for a long period, but would... provide some moments of pleasure for the tastebuds if supplemented by some of the staples."

My wartime menu
30 Jun 04  |  Magazine

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