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Restaurant Groups Join FSA To Promote Healthy Eating

Posted in Comment,Economics,Foodservice Footprint news,News by foodservicefootprint on May 12, 2009

Announcement from the Food Standards Agency website www.food.gov.uk May 12th 2009

Some of the most well-known restaurant chains on the UK high street have agreed to work with the FSA to put healthy eating firmly on the menu for their customers.

PizzaExpress, Pizza Hut, The Restaurant Group (which operates Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Garfunkel’s), Tragus (which operates Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Strada) and the takeaway chain Domino’s have all agreed to provide commitments, which will focus on the range of healthier options available to their customers. The companies together operate more than 2,000 restaurants and takeaway outlets across the UK.

Although the commitments are different for each company, they share the aim of helping their customers enjoy a healthier, more balanced diet. The companies describe their progress to date and identify specific projects, which take into account procurement, menu planning, kitchen practice and consumer information. Each business will give the Agency a six month progress update.

Some of the measures announced today include:

  • salt reduction projects – this work includes finding ways to use less salt in pizza dough and training hundreds of chefs not to use salt in food preparation.
  • extensive work to collect full nutritional data for products and recipes (for restaurant groups with seasonally changing menus across many brands this involves thousands of products) – this data will then be used to help recipe reformulation and to provide more customer information
  • reviewing children’s menus to make them healthier, including using more ‘hidden’ vegetables in dishes and offering more fruit
  • working with suppliers to identify core products lower in saturated fat, for example to identify a lower-fat mozzarella cheese as a pizza topping or using lower fat dressings and milk
  • increasing the range of healthier options on offer, including more salads, soups, fish dishes, grilled foods and desserts with more fruit.

Progress described by the companies includes a 30% reduction of salt across the menu by one company since 2004, the introduction of a pizza with a cheese that contains one third less fat (than the standard cheese) and a 500 calorie pizza.

A number of healthier dishes have already been trialled extensively by some of the companies before being introduced. These trials show ‘health by stealth’ is being achieved – many of the changes to make meals healthier are not noticeable to customers, as they still taste as good but offer lower levels of fat, salt and sugar.

Dawn Primarolo, Minister for Public Health, said, ‘Tastes are changing and people want to eat more healthily. These commitments will help people make healthier choices and will go some way towards our aim to make healthy food the norm.’

Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the FSA, said, ‘The commitments made by these well-known companies are good news for those of us who eat out and good news for public health. We now have more than 40 companies working with the Agency to ensure their customers can make healthier choices if they want to. We estimate this could benefit around eight million customers every day, which is clearly a significant achievement. We welcome all of the efforts being taken by these companies to help us all enjoy healthier diets.’

Also, joining the companies by publishing commitments today will be four coffee chains – Camden Food Co., John Lewis Partnership Cafés, Sainsbury’s Cafés and Upper Crust. Camden Food Co., Pizza Hut and Sainsbury’s Cafés are also working with the FSA to trial calorie labelling over the summer.

Healthy eating commitments have now been announced by major catering companies throughout the UK including workplace caterers, quick service restaurant, pub restaurant and coffee and sandwich shop chains. This means that healthier options are now more widely available to millions of consumers every day when they eat out, whether that is in a staff restaurant, a sandwich or snack on the run, or sitting down at a table for a meal in a restaurant.

2 Responses to 'Restaurant Groups Join FSA To Promote Healthy Eating'

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  1. Comment from Horizons on the agreement
    between the FSA and leading UK high street
    restaurant chains on healthy eating

    “The fact that some of the UK’s biggest restaurant chains – PizzaExpress, Pizza Hut, The Restaurant Group, Tragus and Domino’s – have all agreed to commit to providing a range of healthier options on their menus shows the seriousness with which the foodservice industry now has to view healthy eating,” commented foodservice analyst Peter Backman, managing director of Horizons.

    “For many years it was argued that it was the consumer’s right to eat whatever they liked when they were out, but as eating out has moved from being an occasional treat to something that most people do several times a month, so its contribution to the health of the nation becomes more vital.”

    Some of the measures announced by the FSA today include salt reduction, providing nutritional data for recipes, making children’s menus more healthy, working with suppliers to lower saturated fat in particular ingredients, and increasing the range of healthier options on offer.

    “Today’s foodservice market is extremely competitive. If customers are demanding these changes on high street menus, then it makes sense for operators to listen. Most consumers will now keep a careful eye on what they are eating – perhaps opting for a light starter and avoiding the more calorie-laden desserts. Operators cannot afford to ignore this trend,” added Backman.

  2. foodservicefootprint said,

    This is all very interesting and it will be intriguing to see how diners respond to the initiative.

    In the cheese sector, for example, it has historically been unusual for foodservice chefs to embrace low-fat options, not out of any avoidance of the ‘eat healthy’ concept, but because of the fact that low-fat cheese neither performs as an ingredient, nor enhances the flavour profile in the same way as ‘normal’ cheese.

    Whilst acknowledging both the FSA’s aspiration and Peter’s as always well informed comments, there is still the nagging thought that when people go out to eat they want something that tastes good first and foremost and if they can’t get that, they’ll go somewhere else.

    Cheese aside, many of the ingredients to be avoided under this initiative contribute to flavour, so menu developers and Chefs will just have to be creative and use other ingredients to fill the flavour gap.


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