Nutrition trends going wrong way

THE GOVERNMENT has published its annual “Family Food” survey, which campaigners say shows worrying trends in terms of nutrition.


The survey provides statistics on food purchases by type of food and also estimates of nutrient content.


Most concerning is the decline in purchases of fruit and vegetables, down 10% in 2011 compared to 2007. The fall is most marked in lower income groups, with purchases down up to 22%.


The trend is the same for when people are eating out, with vegetables and fruit falling 8.5% and 5.3% respectively since 2008.


Campaigners said the statistics showed that the Government’s approach to healthy food policy, including initiatives such as the Public Health Responsibility Deal, is not working.


“With nutrition trends continuing to go the wrong way, especially amongst lower income households, how much longer will the government rely on half-measures and a failing leave-it-to-industry approach?” said Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign.


“Given widely held concerns about the weakness of the Responsibility Deal, we have little confidence that the latest pledges on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption will have much impact, especially whilst retailers and manufacturers continue to heavily promote junk food and sugary drinks.”


The food industry has often had to defend the benefits of such voluntary schemes, but the signs are that more and more companies are committing to the Responsibility Deal. So far, the deal has over 370 “partners” (170 signed up at the start) including a good portion of those in foodservice. New figures available in January’s Foodservice Footprint show that 64% of the catering sector market is signed up to the salt reduction pledges, with the aim to get to 87%.


Clark also criticised the Government for not including academies in the school food standards which “safeguard the quality of food available in maintained schools” and expressed concerns with the new welfare system.


“Many families are struggling to afford school meals and a proper breakfast – both important elements in ensuring children’s wellbeing and academic progress.  When the new Universal Credit welfare system is introduced in 2013, free school meals should be available, at minimum, to all children living in poverty,” he added.