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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 13:39 GMT
Family chains 'offer junk food'
Image of diners
The survey included 10 big chains
Family restaurants are failing to offer enough healthy food choices to children, according to a new report.

None of 10 big chains surveyed came close to meeting new school dinner standards, the study for the organic food body the Soil Association found.

It said meals were high in salt, sugar and fat and offered little fresh fruit or vegetables.

Cafe Rouge, bottom of the list, said half the meals on its children's menu were healthy options.

"Eat as much as you like"

It said the menu inspected by the investigators was only one of many that it offered.

Whitbread, which owns three of the chains surveyed, told the BBC it was already putting a new emphasis on fresh and healthy food, particularly in children's meals.

A restaurant manager for Little Chef said they had added a few salad ranges and vegetables to their menus.

Children eat far more meals at school and it makes a greater contribution to their diet than going out for a treat in a restaurant
John Dyson of the British Hospitality Association

The study looked at restaurant chains rather than fast-food outlets and included Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Cafe Rouge, Garfunkels, Harvester, Hungry Horse, Little Chef, Nando's, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays.

Nutritionists, sponsored by the Soil Association and food firm Organix, analysed 568 of the meal options offered at the restaurants.

None of the 10 chains passed the government's new school meal standards for fat and sugar levels.

Chips, bottomless fizzy drinks and "eat as much as you like" ice-cream were among the unhealthy products offered.

Unfair comparison

Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said parents had the right to be offered healthy options for their children.

But he said: "Sadly, our survey of children's food in restaurants reveals that all the major providers of children's meals are simply continuing their unhealthy business of serving up junk food to children."

Emma Noble, Soil Association policy manager, added: "Some of these restaurants have made efforts but they just don't go far enough."

Marks out of 30
TGI Fridays - 16
Harvester - 15
Beefeater - 15
Pizza Hut - 14
Brewers Fayre - 13
Garfunkels - 12
Hungry Horse - 12
Little Chef - 11
Nando's - 10
Cafe Rouge - 8

However, the survey did find some shining examples of healthy restaurant meals, including the National Trust's restaurants and Ikea.

John Dyson of the British Hospitality Association pointed out that having a treat at a restaurant was different to eating lunch every day at school.

"Children eat far more meals at school and it makes a greater contribution to their diet than going out for a treat in a restaurant.

"I've had a look at some of the menus and have found salads and orange juice. There have been improvements," he added.

He said it was important to engage children with food and get people to understand what a healthy diet and lifestyle is.

Could school dinners be healthier?
04 Sep 06 |  Have Your Say

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