Celebrity chef Prue Leith is on a mission to improve the quality of hospital meals ©Getty Images
Celebrity chef Prue Leith is on a mission to improve the quality of hospital meals ©Getty Images

UK leads on healthy food

6 September 2019

Now industry must find ways to profit from it

Packaged food sold in UK supermarkets is the healthiest in the world, according to a new study.

The George Institute for Global Health analysed more than 400,000 food and drink products from supermarkets in 12 countries using Australia’s Health Star Rating (HSR) system.

Levels of energy, salt, sugar and saturated fat were measured alongside protein, calcium and fibre. Countries were awarded an average score from a half point to five, with five the most healthy.

The UK scored the highest average HSR, followed by the US and Australia (see table above, right). At the bottom of the table, China scored 2.43, followed by Hong Kong (2.37) and India came last on 2.27.

Report co-author Bruce Neal, acting executive director of The George Institute’s Australian centre, said: “We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health.’’

Two campaign groups, Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, have called for the UK government to introduce an “excess calorie levy” to encourage manufacturers to reformulate products so that they contain less fat and sugar.

Campaigners pointed to the success of the soft drinks sugar tax, which is said to have removed 90 million kilos from the UK’s diet since it was introduced in April 2018, but the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said there were no such plans for a calorie tax on food.

Separately, the DHSC announced a review of hospital food to improve quality and boost transparency through the supply chains.

The review will consider sourcing hospital food locally and reducing the current reliance on frozen and pre-packaged foods as well as the sustainability and environmental impact of supply chains.

The Soil Association is supporting the review and celebrity chef and TV’s Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith will be an advisor.

The move follows the death of six people earlier this year linked to an outbreak of listeria in hospitals.

Meanwhile, the food sector has been hit by rising vegetable prices caused by downpours in the UK and heatwaves in mainland Europe.

Record rainfall in Lincolnshire in June damaged crops and cut the supply of vegetables including cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower, the last of which has seen wholesale price rises of 400%.

Heatwaves in Europe have exacerbated the shortages with farmers there unable to make up the UK shortfall.

CIPS economist John Glen said: “The triple whammy of Brexit, a weak pound and shortages driven by bad weather will have food producers wondering what’s next on the horizon to hamper their supply chains.”

 

Countries with healthiest packaged food and drinks

1. UK – 2.83

2. US –2.82

3. Australia – 2.81

4. Canada – 2.74

5. New Zealand – 2.73

5. South Africa – 2.73

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