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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 00:38 GMT
Drive to improve canteen health
Canteen staff
Canteen staff are being asked to provide healthy options
Catering students are to be taught more about healthy diets as part of an effort to improve nutrition from food eaten outside the home.

The UK is suffering what has been described as an "epidemic" of obesity, with high rates of coronary heart disease. Poor diets high in saturated fats have been partly blamed.

The trend in the past few years has been for many more meals to be taken away from home, fuelled by busy lifestyles, better eating facilities at work and a burgeoning UK restaurant industry.

Caterers could have a significant influence on the nutritional quality of many people's overall diets

Robert Rees

The government's national food survey revealed that eating out tended to mean food with a higher percentage of fat.

The new guide, "Catering for Health", impresses on catering students the need to offer healthy options in addition to richer food.

Food Standards Agency board member and restaurateur Robert Rees said: "Caterers could have a significant influence on the nutritional quality of many people's overall diets.

Input from chefs

"We will be better equipping the caterers of tomorrow to produce food that is enjoyable to eat and good for you."

The guidelines were drawn up by a working party co-ordinated by the British Nutrition Foundation and have already been piloted with chefs and chef lecturers.

They will be distributed to colleges across the UK.

Sara Stanner, a nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "Learning about healthier catering practices will enable chefs to offer healthier choices, which customers increasingly want to buy."

The government's White Paper on public health, published in July 1999, has set the target of reducing the death rate from cardiovascular disease by at least two-fifths in the under-75s.

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