The hospitality industry has a responsibility to promote healthy eating habits, writes Mike Duckett MBE FIH, the ambassador for good hospital food and the former award-winning head of catering at The Royal Brompton Hospital, London.
“I have always worried about the amount of chemical additives added to food during manufacturing and the number of alien ingredients used to extend the colour and the shelf life of food, especially ready frozen meals. I have been very vocal in expressing my concerns which were confirmed recently when I visited the local hospital here in Surrey.
I was disturbed to hear of two eight-year-old boys who were hospitalised with severe pain from type-one diabetes. The senior nurse on duty told me that the main cause was their poor diet and lack of a variety of healthy food.
We therefore as the hospitality fraternity have a collective responsibility to ensure that the food we serve is healthier. We should persuade those who manufacture meals to be more aware of the steps needed to reducing high levels of obesity.
Statistics show that we are eating out more regularly and that we tend to eat more in a restaurant than in the home environment. This raises one important question. How safe is it to eat out these days? Recently we have heard that a major meat supplier was told by the FSA to stop supplying, a popular pub chain received a zero rating for hygiene, and food factories change best before dates on food. We also hear of customers dying from eating food that cause allergies. It makes you wonder if eating out is taking your life in their hands.
Hospitals, care homes, meals on wheels services and the general public are in the habit of purchasing ready frozen microwave meals. These meals are high in fat, sugar and salt. Scientists have warned that emulsifiers – the chemicals widely used in processed foods including ice cream, bread and chocolate – may be a key cause of obesity. These emulsifiers are used to make smoother textures in foods such as peanut butter, sausages and mayonnaise. They are understood to be chemically active long after we digest them and they increase hunger and therefore we eat more.
If we are going to take the growing obesity epidemic seriously, we need an urgent look at what is being used in our food manufacturing and in the type of food and ready meals we serve our customers and campaign for the use of fresh local ingredients from as near the point of service as possible.”