County’s eateries targeted in new healthy food campaign
- Credit: Archant
A new drive to combat Suffolk’s obesity crisis aims to tap into the talents of up to 5,000 of the county’s food catering businesses.
This week saw the launch of an Eat Out, Eat Well award, which will recognise retailers’ and restaurants’ commitments to providing healthy food options for consumers.
The accolade, part of a national initiative, hopes to encourage restaurateurs and cafe owners to put some healthier choices on the menu as new research shows that around two thirds of Suffolk people are overweight or obese.
Up to around 5,300 Suffolk businesses which achieve food hygiene scores of three to five (five being the highest rating) following visits from environmental health teams are eligible to enter.
There are estimated to be around 7,500 food outlets in total across the county.
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Around 60 people attended the launch of the initiative - a joint effort by Suffolk’s public health and environmental health departments - which was held on Wednesday at Center Parcs in Elveden, recipient of its first Silver award. Ipswich catering firm Vertas received a gold award.
Suffolk County Council’s director of public health Tessa Lindfield said there had already been “fantastic interest” in the schemefrom businesses.
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Environmental health officers had been trained in the accreditation scheme, and would be offering it to businesses scoring highly on their food hygiene as part of their regular inspections, she explained. This meant the costs of implementing it were kept low.
“We have got two thirds of adults overweight, so it’s a big issue for us,” she said.
“This is a long term project for us and the idea is to really support a movement for change in Suffolk so when we are eating out, which we are all doing more and more, we have got a healthy option there.”
There was a latent demand among the public for healthier menu options, she said, which also made it a good business decision to become involved.
The accreditation will last for two years although officers can return to businesses if situations change.
She hopes some of the county’s most prominent eateries will get on board.
“If we can get our really famous cafés and restaurants on board with this it will be a catalyst for getting more on board,” she said.
“They are finding their customers are getting ever more interested in what they are eating and there’s a demand for this.”
Steve Chadwick, food and beverage manager for Center Parcs Elveden Forest said it had been a useful learning experience for his team.
“Working with Suffolk County Council on this scheme has been really important to us,” he said.
“By making small changes to the way foods are prepared and served, you can make the food served to guests that little bit healthier without compromising on good taste.
“For us it’s about choice too, we have vegan, lactose-free, dairy-free and gluten sensitive menus at some of our restaurants as well as children’s menus and this really does mean there’s even more flexibility for guests so they get the most from their dining experience.”
To achieve the award, businesses must pass a rigorous assessment carried out by environmental health officers, with criteria based on the principles of a healthy, balanced diet.
These include keeping fat, sugar and salt to a minimum, making fruit and vegetables widely available and basing main meals on starchy carbohydrates.