Monday, February 08, 2010

Carrots good for your sight hoax - how it was created

Front page of Ministry of Food Carrot LeafletBack page of Ministry of Food Carrot Leaflet

"During the Second World War (1939-45) Carrots were one vegetable which was in plentiful supply and as a result were widely-utilised as a substitute for scarce foodstuffs and used in several "mock" recipes. It was also a major ingredient of the "Dig For Victory" Campaign. Dig for Victory, which was extensively publicised with songs and posters featuring Dr Carrot and Potato Pete, was run for most of the war by Professor John Raeburn, a respected agricultural economist, who joined the Ministry of Food in 1939 as a statistician and two years later was appointed to lead the Agricultural Plans Branch.

While much of the credit for the campaign went to Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food from 1940 to 1943, Mr Raeburn ran it until the end of the war and was responsible for its continuing success. At one point there was a glut of carrots, and the Government let it be known that carotene, which is believed to help night vision, was largely responsible for the RAF’s increasing success in shooting down enemy bombers.

People eagerly tucked in to carrots, believing this would help them to see more clearly in the blackout. This ruse not only reduced the surplus vegetables but also helped to mask the chief reason for the RAF’s success - the increasing power of radar and the secret introduction of an airborne version of the system.

The Ministry of Agriculture promoted carrots heavily as a substitute for other less readily available vegetables, fruit and other commodities. To improve its image of blandness, people were encouraged to enjoy the healthy carrot in different ways by promoting various recipes such as curried carrot and carrot jam.

The Ministry of Food produced several informative cookery leaflets including one specifically dedicated to carrots (see official carrot cookery leaflet here) . People were encouraged to enjoy the healthy carrot in different ways by the introduction of Dr Carrot in a series of magazine articles and posters.

The slogan "Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout" was used extensively.

Some war time recipes promoted by the Ministry of Food are also detailed below - click here..

There was even a homemade drink called Carrolade, made up from the juices of carrots and Swede (Rutabaga) grated and squeezed through a piece of muslin, clearly no one thought of just plain carrot juice!.

Other culinary uses included carrot marmalade and toffee carrots. The humble carrot, previously thought to be only good for animal feed had been elevated to a new high and set in motion started its rightful return to one of the countries favourite vegetables.

Also during the war many thousands of tons of carrots were dehydrated and shipped overseas in sealed metal containers in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide or nitrogen to prevent loss of carotene.

The Ministry of Food campaign to encourage people to eat more vegetables, resulted in the promotion of Woolton Pie, composed entirely of vegetables. Potato, carrot and Swede provided the basic ingredients, with onion and cauliflower added when available. Lord Woolton, was the Minister of Food from April 1940.

The recipe was the creation of the chef of the Savoy hotel and named after Lord Woolton. Many people had their own interpretation of this recipe, but they always used carrots! Basically it is mixed vegetables, a sauce and a topping , which could be pastry or potatoes mashed or sliced. The Official recipe as reported in "The Times" on 26 April 1941 is shown here:

The Official Woolton Pie Recipe as reported in The Times 26 April 1941:


Take 1Ib each of diced potatoes, cauliflower, swedes and carrots;
Three or Four spring onions;
One teaspoonful of vegetable extract and
One teaspoonful of oatmeal.


Cook all together for ten minutes with just enough water to cover.
Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking.
Allow to cool; put into a pie dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cover with a crust of potatoes or wholemeal pastry.
Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely brown and serve hot with brown gravy.

Read more about the famous Woolton Pie - click here.

Keep reading here and more here. ( Thanks to Susan for showing me Snopes.)

And a myth is born! Vitamin A is good for the eyes according to some experts the amount in carrots is not enough according to others and one should take supplements... blah blah blah
It's getting hard to know what is really good for health since if we have a problem we go to three physicians we will get three different approaches and many times different diagnosis.


CailinMarie said...

haha! I loved this. As the daughter of a USAF Pilot I remember him eating tons of carrots and telling us 'eat your carrots they are good for your eyes!" *giggle*

Ana said...

My mother said the same.