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Major restaurant chains 'failing child diners'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

17th July 2013 - Campaigners for better children's food are calling on major chain restaurants and pubs to improve what they serve to kids. It is after the Out to Lunch campaign released a league table ranking children's menus offered by 21 popular venues.

According to Out to Lunch, more than half of the children's menus are focused on burgers, nuggets and sausages, and just over a third of the establishments don't include vegetables or a salad in the majority of their main meals for children.

Joanna Lewis, Head of Policy at the Soil Association comments in a statement: "Our investigation reveals that most high street restaurants are not even meeting the most basic standards families should expect when the eat out.... With 1 in 3 children now overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, it's time for these popular chains to use their influence in a popular way."

Behind the research

The Soil Association, which is responsible for the Out to Lunch campaign, describes itself as the UK's leading charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.

They are responsible for the Food for Life Catering Mark, rewarded to schools, restaurants, workplaces and hospitals for serving fresh, locally healthy and ethically source food, with 800,000 meals in the country receiving the Catering Mark every day. Organix, which is also sponsoring the campaign, develops organic food for babies and toddlers using only natural ingredients.

The chains selected for investigation were scored against a points system based on school and early years nutrition standards, taken from the Food for Life Catering Mark.

The campaign also considered feedback provided by 1,000 parents, such as those who wanted a variety of dishes offered to children, and those keen to know if the food is cooked fresh, meat is traceable and free range eggs and sustainable fish are used.

The 21 chains were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their children's menus, and a team of 40 families visited and reviewed 70 restaurants. The average meal price, which varied among the food establishments, was not a factor when it came to the rankings.

The league table findings

According to the Out to Lunch campaign, 66% of parents think that the food provided by restaurants for children is not good enough. Their three-month investigation reveals that:

  • 12 out of 21 restaurant and pubs have children's menus that are dominated by nuggets, burgers and sausages
  • 8 out of 21 chains don't include vegetables or salad in the majority of their children's main meals
  • 10 of the chains don't include a portion of fruit in any children's puddings
  • 10 of the 21 establishments were not willing to tell the campaign if their food is freshly cooked and where the ingredients come from
  • Only 2 chains offer a children’s drinks menu free from added sugar and sweeteners

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