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Finnish food is in line with the pure, light Scandinavian cuisine

Finland is a pioneering country in the R&D for functional foods


PRESS RELEASE 13 July 2005 There is no such thing as “Finnish food” as a comprehensive concept. The Finnish cuisine combines the country’s regional rural traditions with foreign influences. Indeed, the best word to describe the Finnish cuisine is versatility, and the pure tastes of the ingredients used. Finnish food research is state-of-the-art by the top international standards – Finland is a pioneering country, for example, in the R&D for functional foods. Whenever foreigners comment on Finnish food to the Finns, they react by asking what particular food they mean. Finnish traditional food or everyday home-cooked meals, or the food served in workplace cafeterias and school refectories, or possibly restaurant food? Or does the foreigner mean particular dishes, like smoked perch or smoke-cured ham or forest berries? Or has the person in question been lucky enough to have tasted the dishes created by our internationally successful gourmet chefs, or the specialities served at gala dinners? It might very well be that the comments are based on the food on offer at petrol stations or fast food at a popular summer event. East meets West in Finnish cuisine Thanks to the country’s geopolitical location, Finnish cuisine has been influenced by East and West alike. During the past few decades, Southern European and American food have also become increasingly popular, and Finns in fact appreciate not only their own food, but also that from other countries. Faced with so many influences, Finnish cuisine, however, retains its own unique characteristics. Take the home pasta maker, for example: in many homes in the east of Finland, it is also used to roll the dough for the Karelian pasties, the karjalanpiirakka. Rich seasonal offer The four Finnish seasons come with characteristic delicacies. In the summer, you will have the fragrant vegetables, berries and mushrooms, as well as freshly caught fish. On white summer nights the shores of the thousands of lakes are dotted with Finns grilling and smoking freshwater fish and eating characteristic pancakes made on an open fire with special large muurinpohjapannu pans – serving them with berries they have picked, whipped cream or ice cream. Autumn is the time for crayfish parties, often arranged by rivers and lakes. The small but the more succulent freshwater crayfish caught in rivers and lakes are a highly regarded delicacy of the best restaurants. Autumn is also game season, but reindeer meat is available throughout the year. Reindeer stew served with mashed potatoes and cowberry jam is one of the most popular dishes in the restaurants of Lapland. The uncontaminated purity of Finnish food is based on the excellent hygiene of primary production and industry, and on the quality work pursued by the entire food chain. The winter frost is an efficient pesticide and so much less chemical pesticides is needed than in the rest of the world. Tasty provincial specialities Still today Finnish cuisine is based on natural ingredients and rural culture. The tourist travelling in Finland might encounter kalakukko (rye bread filled with small fish), sour rye bread or mämmi (traditional Easter pudding-like dish made of rye and malt). Like the karjalanpiirakka these are originally regional specialities now known all over the country. Strong natural tastes might take some getting used to, and not everybody likes mämmi at first. However, well-prepared regional specialities provide an unforgettable experience for the unprejudiced taster. As far as coffee is concerned, Finns are heavy consumers. Finns drink more coffee than any other nation in the world. You will always be offered coffee at any home you visit. And pulla too, which is sweet yeast bread made of wheat, often homemade – or at least baked at home. Pioneer in the R&D for functional foods Finns have always shown great respect for food. Food is prepared with care, with due attention to cleanliness, fostering the regional traditions. This serious attitude is today reflected in the quality certificates awarded to agriculture and industry, as well as in scientific research. Food research is one of the core areas of Finnish research. Finns are today able to prevent frequently occurring health problems through correct diets. Indeed, Finland is an R&D pioneer in health-promoting or functional foods. The correlation between nutrition and health is constantly being highlighted, and Finland has been able to change the popular eating habits; for example, to lower the genetically high blood cholesterol in the population. Finns have replaced fat-containing dairy products with low-fat products in their diet and have increased their consumption of vegetables. Much work is also being done to fight and prevent the “lifestyle diseases” which are frequent in countries with high living standards – diabetes, obesity and coronary diseases. The rest of Europe turns to Finland for advise and models to fight these diseases. The cholesterol-lowering Benecol products and the anticaries Xylitol sweetener, the sour milk products with lactic acid bacteria for a balanced stomach and intestine – all are Finnish innovations. They have won international renown and are sold in Europe, the US and Asia. Besides products with normal fat content, Finnish grocery stores have a wide range of non-fat and low-salt products for the well-informed shopper to choose. Finnish bread is particularly tasty and healthy using four grains: rye, oats, barley and wheat. Finnish rye crisp bread and hapankorppu (thin sour rye crisp) are available all over Europe. The health impact of oats (including the blood sugar balancing effect of soluble oat fibre, or beta-glucan) has been a well-known fact in Finland for years, and now the rest of Europe is promoting the use of oats. From the national health perspective, it is also of great importance that every Finnish schoolchild gets a free, healthy and versatile school lunch every single school day. When in Finland, you should try freshwater fish and roe smoked and smoke-cured products game mushrooms, especially the ceps[Boletus edulis] so popular with Italians rye and multigrain breads and the karjanlanpiirakka rye pasties sweet home-made pulla wheat bread berry desserts from berries picked in the forests For further information, please contact: Tiina Lampisjärvi, Managing Director, Finfood Tel. +358 9 6155 400 Anu Harkki, Director of the Nutrition Programme, The Finnish Fund for Research and Development (Sitra) Tel. +358 50 4311 651 Senior Food Writer Anna-Maija Tanttu Finfood – Finnish Food Information Service is a NGO, with the core aim to provide information about Finnish agriculture and food production to consumers and promote Finnish cuisine in Finland as a part of the European Union. The Finnish National Fund for Research and Development (Sitra) is an independent public foundation. Its activities are designed to promote the economic prosperity of Finns. Sitra’s expertise is focused on programmes, which can rapidly influence issues vital for the Finnish competitiveness and economic growth. Core programme areas are innovations, health care, food and nutrition, environment, Russia and India.