Campaign exposes truth behind children’s menus in 21 chain restaurants and pubs

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A charity has exposed the poor practice of many restaurants and pubs revealing that they are failing to serve fresh food or offer healthy choices even in children’s meals.

Soil Association, through its Out to Lunch campaign, has released its latest league table ranking listing restaurant chains and food outlets based on the food choices on offer as well as how healthy they are.

The listing has been prepared by the Association through its army of parent secret diners who have found evidence that three chains are still offering children free or discounted refills of high calorie sugary drinks as standard (Café Rouge, Frankie & Benny’s, Pizza Hut).

“We’ve found some up-market eateries are designing menus that make healthy eating for children almost impossible, and price is no guarantee of quality – lower cost restaurants are outperforming more expensive chains”, said Rob Percival from the Soil Association.

The Association found that 12 chains offer a fresh fruit pudding, but fail to include it as the default option in the meal deal, promoting instead an array of sugar-laden puddings that will quickly blow a child’s daily sugar budget; only at Wagamama is every meal option balanced and only Wagamama provides children’s cutlery as standard; and the majority of chains are not freshly preparing and cooking the majority of their food in the restaurant.

The campaign group said that quite a few restaurants are offering food that is pre-cooked in other countries including potatoes pre-mashed in Holland, fish fingers pre-cooked in Poland, chicken from Thailand and Brazil, cheese from Australia and New Zealand.

Size of chain does not determine position in the league table, notes Soil Association in its report. Jamie’s Italian (the smallest chain) with score of 64 out of 80 and Wetherspoons (the second largest chain) with score 43 out of 80 are both in the top 5, while Strada (the second smallest chain) with score of 27 out of 80 and KFC (the third largest chain) with score of 11 out of 80 are both in the bottom 5.

Amidst these negative findings were some significant positive changes as well with 10 chains serving a portion of veg or salad with every meal (up from 6 chains in 2013) and 9 chains include information on where ingredients come from on the menu (up from 5).

“Since our first league table Harvester and Prezzo have proved it’s possible to make major improvements – we’re now calling on other restaurants to raise the bar and give our kids the food they deserve”, said Percival.