Hospital food review
The Hospital Caterers Association has published a lengthy response to NHS England’s attack on junk food served to staff, visitors and patients. "Many of the areas of concern that are being raised as [chief executive Simon] Stevens outlines his push to help NHS workers get healthier may be beyond our control as NHS caterers," said Philip Shelley, the organisation’s national chairman. Shelley, who is also facilities manager at Musgrove Park Hospital in Somerset, called on government to implement a fixed minimum cost for hospital meals. School meals cost the same across the board so why isn't this possible for hospital food, he said. The mean cost of patient food per day is £8.97, but in some trusts it’s as low as £3 and in others it can be “£10 to £12” Shelley explained.
Bitter sugar battle
Ian Wright, the boss at the Food and Drink Federation, has reportedly accused health campaigners of lying twice in the past two weeks. Last week he told The Grocer that Jamie Oliver’s programme, Jamie’s Sugar Rush, had misrepresented the facts over the sugar tax in Mexico. This week he was at it again at an awards ceremony. Mexico introduced a 10% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks at the beginning of last year. The FDF and British Soft Drinks Association say it hasn’t worked. But back in June the Guardian reported how the new law had cut consumption by as much as 17% among low-income families. This autumn, the UK government is due to publish its anti-obesity strategy and pressure is intensifying for it to include hard line measures rather than the soft-touch approach that led to the Public Health Responsibility Deal.
Cheers for alcohol
Public health campaigners have also been challenged on alcohol claims this week. A new report by the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that the revenue from taxes on alcoholic drinks outweighs the costs (including health, police, criminal justice and welfare) by £6.5 billion. This is contrary to the oft-quoted government study showing that the cost of alcohol to society is £20 billion a year. “The government could halve all forms of alcohol duty and still receive more in tax than it spends dealing with alcohol-related problems,” the IEA’s report notes.
Nearly three-quarters of fresh, whole chickens (73%) analysed by the Food Standards Agency between February 2014 and March 2015 tested positive for campylobacter. Nearly a fifth (19%) tested positive within the highest band of contamination. The full-year results, published on the FSA’s website, are a reminder that there is much to be done to tackle what has become the agency’s “leading food safety priority”. The FSA welcomed case studies by Marks and Spencer, the Co-op, Waitrose, Aldi and Iceland showing significant decreases in the incidence of campylobacter on their raw, whole chickens. The bug is responsible for 280,000 cases of food poisoning every year.
Bag tax looms
On October 5th, many businesses in England will have to start charging 5p for plastic bags. The legislation will reportedly cut consumption by 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street. Within the next 10 years, 1.2m tonnes of greenhouse gases will be saved, as well as £60m in services to clean up litter. Schemes are already in place in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. However, England has decided to complicate things with a number of unpopular exemptions and caveats. Check out next month’s Footprint magazine for our expert briefing.
Dairy price inquiry
MPs have started their investigations into the milk price crisis. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee heard evidence from the NFU, Dairy UK and farm minister George Eustice. They are likely to call retailer representatives but it’s unclear whether the foodservice sector will be quizzed. Indeed, as the milk price scandal has spilled over the pages of all the mainstream press, caterers and coffee shops have managed to avoid any attention.