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Attractions slammed for ‘dodgy’ lunch options

Many of the UK’s top visitor attractions have come under fire for not providing any kids’ lunch options containing salad or vegetables.

A Soil Association investigation also uncovered unhealthy pre-packed lunchboxes, “dodgy” ingredients, and a lack of transparency about food sourcing practices in children’s lunchboxes on sale at the UK’s most popular museums, art galleries, zoos, visitor centres, and theme parks.

The Natural History Museum and Brighton Pier came bottom of the ‘Out to Lunch’ league table with just 22 points out of a possible 150, with the Soil Association criticising the Natural History Museum for its failure to disclose basic information regarding the provenance and environmental sustainability of its food.

The Eden Project and Chester Zoo topped the league table with 99 points and 82 points respectively and won praise for offering healthier meal choices and using locally sourced ingredients.

Among the negative findings highlighted by the Soil Association were an overload of sugar in children’s lunchboxes; attractions serving burgers flavoured with monosodium glutamate (MSG) and meals that included E-numbers linked to negative effects on children’s behaviours; and a majority of lunchboxes containing no veg or salad options.

The survey found cost was no barrier to good food – children’s meals at the five bottom scoring attractions were on average more than £1 more expensive than children’s meals at the five top scoring attractions.

“Visitor attractions are making life hard for parents who want to enjoy a healthy and happy day out,” said Rob Percival, Soil Association policy officer. “Lunchboxes loaded with sugar and unimaginative ultra-processed foods are the norm. So long as junk-filled lunchboxes continue to dominate family outings, parents will have a hard time convincing their children that healthy food can be a treat too.”