The Soil Association is calling on chain restaurants to source more from British farmers after a survey found one salad sourced from 32 different countries.
The organisation’s Out to Lunch campaign, which monitors the health of children’s meals across 25 chains, found restaurants serving potatoes grown in Egypt, apples from Canada and a side salad with ingredients from 32 countries, including Madagascar, Russia, Malaysia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Turkey, India and Peru.
The Soil Association told SM the salad contained grains, leaves and pulses but further details were confidential. “The chains agree to cooperate and work with the Out to Lunch programme and reveal where they source their ingredients on the understanding that the details will be treated in confidence/not attributed to them directly – OTL then works with the chains towards more local and sustainable sourcing,” said a spokeswoman.
The campaign, which used a group of “secret diner families”, found one pudding at Hungry Horse included 78g of sugar, over 400% of a child’s daily sugar allowance. However, the most calorific dessert was Harvester’s 721kcal Chocolate Cookie Pizza, a cookie topped with chocolate source, marshmallows, strawberries, butterscotch sauce and chocolate buttons, which represents almost half of a seven-year-old’s daily calorie requirement.
Children’s meals were found to contain additives linked to hyperactivity (E133 Brilliant Blue FCF), additives made from insects (E120 cochineal) and the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Despite these findings, the Soil Association said children’s food had improved since the campaign launched in 2013, with 13 chains serving a portion of veg or salad with every meal, up from six in 2013, and 12 chains using organic ingredients, up from four.
Wetherspoons and Beefeater scored in the top five, while Prezzo and Nando’s fell into the bottom five. Jamie’s Italian came top and Burger King came last.
Jamie’s Italian, Wahaca and Nando’s were the only chains serving 100% British meat, while Jamie’s Italian, Wahaca and Strada were the only restaurants serving higher welfare (organic or RSPCA) meat.
Out to Lunch is calling on all restaurant chains to serve two portions of veg with every children’s meal, ensure pudding sizes are appropriate, make water freely available and stop promoting sugary drinks to children, offer children’s portions of adult meals and use quality ingredients such as free range and organic on the children’s menu.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who collaborated on the campaign, said: “Given that we’re in the midst of an obesity crisis, and that we're eating out more than ever before, restaurant chains have to step up and take some responsibility for the health and well being of their customers.
“It’s time to be clear with parents about what's going into their children's food, to stop pushing endless sugar and lazy combinations of refined carbs, and start promoting healthy veg.”
Out to Lunch league table 2017:
1. Jamie’s Italian
8. Brewers Fayre
9. Sizzling Pub & Grill
10. Café Rouge
12. Ask Italian
15. Pizza Express
16. Las Iguanas
17. Pizza Hut
18. Hungry Horse
19. Frankie & Benny’s
23. TGI Fridays
25. Burger King