Supermarkets under fire in new children’s food league table
24 July 2019
A new league table ranking children’s food at 28 popular chains has revealed “irresponsible” menus in supermarket cafes, with Marks & Spencer Café serving no vegetables on its children’s menu, and Tesco Café serving no British meat.
The Out to Lunch league table, compiled by the Soil Association with a team of secret diner children and parents, has persuaded 13 chains to commit to serving two portions of veg with every child’s meal within the next 12 months. This means more than 11 million portions of veg will be served to children across the UK in the coming year.
JD Wetherspoon topped the league table, followed by Ikea and Harvester, with organic and sustainable ingredients and lots of veg on the menu. Children’s meals in the highest scoring chains were on average £1 cheaper than meals in the lowest scoring chains, showing that price isn’t a barrier to good food.
But even with an increase in fresh vegetables and organic food across the high street, many chains are serving children unhealthy and unsustainable meals – despite 88% of parents saying that children’s food in high street chains isn’t good enough, and 70% saying environmental sustainability is important to them.1
Marks & Spencer Café serves no veg on the children’s menu, and several chains are offering excessively sugary puddings. Hungry Horse’s Mini-Mania Sundae was found to contain 56.2 grams of sugar and 495kcal – this is more than double a child’s daily sugar allowance.2
Several chains, including Bella Italia and Giraffe, were found to be serving children single-use plastics, like cups and straws. Others, such as Las Iguanas and Café Rouge, are “dishing up deforestation” by serving meat fed with uncertified animal feed. The unsustainable production of animal feed is responsible for wildlife loss and deforestation abroad.3
Supermarket cafes, which serve millions of meals each year, were included in the league table for the first time alongside high street chains.4 They generally scored near the bottom of the table, with no British meat served at Tesco Café, mouldy fruit at Morrisons Café, and ASDA Café declining to say whether they use free-range eggs. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Pizza Express and Tesco Café ranked at the bottom of the league table.
Hattie Shepherd, Soil Association policy officer, said:
“Out to Lunch has kickstarted a veg revolution on the high street with more than a dozen chains committing to serving two portions of veg with every child’s meal.
“But many chains are being irresponsible and failing to offer children the food they deserve. It’s baffling that children aren’t offered a single portion of veg at Marks & Spencer’s cafés – this is Simply Rubbish.
“Parents would be shocked if they knew popular chains were dishing up deforestation to their children – especially when it’s clear from top performing chains like Wetherspoon and Ikea that cost isn’t a barrier to healthy and sustainable food. And why are British chains and supermarkets sourcing meat from Thailand and China over British farmers? Our children deserve better.”
The campaign also found:
• Tesco, ASK Italian, Giraffe, Harvester, Hungry Horse, Prezzo, and Zizzi were unable to trace the meat they served to children back to the farm.
• The campaign found chains are failing to support British farmers, serving chicken from Thailand and Brazil; meat from Hungary and Uruguay; fish from China, Indonesia, and Malaysia; cucumbers from the Canary Islands; tomatoes from Tunisia and Senegal; and mushrooms from Poland.
• Single use plastics, including cups, straws and cutlery, were served with children’s meals at Bella Italia, Brewer’s Fayre, Giraffe, Pizza Express, and Sainsbury’s café. One parent reported 6 cups and straws over 2 courses for 2 children at Giraffe.
• Chains are serving excessively sugary puddings at Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Harvester, and Hungry Horse. Hungry Horse’s Mini-Mania Sundae was the most sugary pudding on the league table, containing 56.2 grams of sugar and 495kcal.
• Chains including ASDA café, Brewer’s Fayre, Las Iguanas, Morrison’s café, Tesco, TGI Friday’s, and Waitrose café are withholding nutritional information from parents, failing to disclose any nutritional information for children’s meals.
• No British meat was offered at Giraffe, Wagamama or Tesco.
• 20 chains, including Café Rouge and Giraffe are failing to ensure sustainability in their supply chains by serving meat fed with animal feed that lacks sustainability certification.3
• In response to the campaign, 13 chains committed to serving two portions of veg with every child’s meal within the next 12 months – Harvester, Ikea, ASK Italian, Zizzi, Giraffe, Hungry Horse, Wetherspoon, Prezzo, Leon, Wahaca, Wagamama, Sainsbury’s café, Brewers Fayre.
• 15 chains are serving organic ingredients – up from 4 chains when the Out to Lunch campaign began in 2013 – Brewer’s Fayre, Café Rouge, Frankie & Benny’s, Harvester, Ikea, Las Iguanas, Marks & Spencer café, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Prezzo, Sainsbury’s café, TGI Fridays, Waitrose café, Wetherspoon, Zizzi.
The Out to Lunch campaign is calling on all restaurant chains and supermarket cafés to take four simple steps to improve the service and food they offer children:
1. Serve two portions of veg with every child’s meal
2. Make water freely available and stop serving sugary drinks to children
3. Serve children’s portions of adult dishes (ensuring they are healthy and nutritionally balanced)
4. Use quality ingredients such as free range and organic