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Irresponsible children's meals served in supermarket cafes - Soil Association

By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Many cafe chains are serving children unhealthy and unsustainable meals, according to a league table.

The Soil Association's ranking of 28 popular chains has found "irresponsible" menus in supermarket cafes, with Marks & Spencer Cafe serving no vegetables on its children's menu and Tesco Cafe, Giraffe and Wagamama serving no British meat.

Tesco, Ask Italian, Giraffe, Harvester, Hungry Horse, Prezzo, and Zizzi were unable to trace the meat they served to children back to the farm.

The campaign said chains were failing to support British farmers, serving chicken from Thailand and Brazil, meat from Hungary and Uruguay, fish from China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, cucumbers from the Canary Islands, tomatoes from Tunisia and Senegal and mushrooms from Poland.

JD Wetherspoon topped the league table, followed by Ikea and Harvester, for their use of organic and sustainable ingredients and amount of vegetables.

Children's meals in the highest scoring chains were on average £1 cheaper than meals in the lowest scoring chains, the Out to Lunch table shows.

Several chains offered "excessively sugary" puddings. Hungry Horse's Mini-Mania Sundae was found to contain 56.2 grams of sugar - more than double a child's recommended daily sugar allowance.

Several, including Bella Italia and Giraffe, served children single-use plastics such as cups and straws, while 20 chains are "dishing up deforestation" by serving meat fed with uncertified animal feed, the Soil Association said.

One parent reported six plastic cups and straws over two courses for two children at Giraffe.

Supermarket cafes were included in the league table for the first time, but generally scored near the bottom of the table.

Diners found mouldy fruit at Morrisons Cafe while and Asda Cafe declined to say whether it used free-range eggs.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Pizza Express and Tesco Cafe ranked at the bottom of the league table.

Soil Association policy officer Hattie Shepherd said: "Many chains are being irresponsible and failing to offer children the food they deserve.

"Parents would be shocked if they knew popular chains were dishing up deforestation to their children - especially when it's clear from top performing chains like Wetherspoon and Ikea that cost isn't a barrier to healthy and sustainable food.

"And why are British chains and supermarkets sourcing meat from Thailand and China over British farmers? Our children deserve better."

A Tesco spokesman said: "Our Cafe team are dedicated to serving our customers high quality food. We are constantly reviewing our customer offer and as part of recent menu changes we now serve British meat, including our sausages and burgers.

"In addition, across our cafes all our milk is British, our eggs are free range and our fish fingers are MSC-certified."

A Bella Italia spokeswoman said: "We recognise that Bella Italia has an important role to play in society, and take the health and well-being of our youngest customers particularly seriously.

"Bella Italia provides multi-use plastic straws, which guests are actively encouraged to bring home and re-use as a memento of their visit."

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