Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 12:24 UK

Troops get 'takeaways' in rations

Troops tuck into ration packs
British troops hope the new packs will give greater variety

Bully beef has had its chips as far as UK forces are concerned, with frontline troops preparing to tuck in to Thai green curry or pilau rice.

The Ministry of Defence has unveiled a new ration pack, replacing traditional hard tack biscuits with Oreo cookies.

It has introduced 20 new menus, with 18 halal, vegetarian and Sikh and Hindu variations, after soldiers complained there was not enough variety.

They will be trialled over three months by all three forces in Afghanistan.

Lt Cdr Neil Horwood said the new menus have been drawn up by soldiers who have recently returned from operations in Afghanistan.

"The problem with the old packs was duplication... 80% of the ration packs were the same.

"No-one wants to eat baked beans for breakfast every day for four months," he said.


Sergeant Chris Challis shows what is inside one of the ration boxes

Instead, there will be a choice between a cooked breakfast, muesli and porridge.

Lt Cdr Horwood said the stressful environment of a conflict zone tended to suppress troops' appetites and the new menus would encourage them to eat food with the right nutritional balance.

Such are the demands of their work, personnel must take on 4,000 calories each day - almost twice the usual guideline amount.

So the new multi-climate packs will tempt them with salmon pasta, mixed bean salad, Shrewsbury or stem ginger biscuits, along with many of the favourites from the old ration pack.

Each has an 18-month shelf life and includes a mixture of dry foods and boil-in-the-bag pouches, as well as sachets of seasoning and tiny bottles of Tabasco sauce.

Maj John Gilbert, 46, says that rations have gone through huge improvements since he joined the army 27 years ago, when food was largely in heavy tins.

"We used to have steak and kidney pudding which we called a baby's head because it was a thick suet crust with tiny bits of meat inside," he said.

He said the new packs were lighter, easier to carry and could provide a morale boost to troops keen for a hot meal.

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