The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced the “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme to encourage the public to eat in restaurants and cafes.
Prof Amelia Lake, Professor in Public Health Nutrition, Teesside University, said:
“At a time when the links between health, wellbeing and health outcomes has never been clearer, it is disappointing that this scheme to promote the hospitality couldn’t have taken a more joined up approach.
“Only yesterday, the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment report ‘Hungry for Change: fixing the failures in food’ highlighted (among other things) the importance of addressing our unhealthy food environments.
“The context is that Covid has highlighted cracks in our current food system, from our ‘just in time’ food supply chain to the massive issue of food insecurity.
“We know that food consumed outside of the home is generally less healthy , higher in fat, salt and sugar. A recent University of Liverpool study (https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/10/e029679) highlighted the high calorie content of foods purchased from 27 chain restaurants.
“Our ‘Foodscape’ research has shown that you can work with food businesses to help create a healthier food environment. See: http://www.fuse.ac.uk/research/behaviourchange/foodscape-testinginterventionstopromotehealthiertakeawayfood.html
“I am not aware of any evidence that restaurant discount schemes can impact diet or obesity, but we know that fiscal measures are a power tool, as highlighted by the successful sugar levy on sugar drinks. I imagine this will be a powerful tool in getting people to eat out more, but I don’t think it is a largely positive health move for everyone. We need a food strategy which addresses inequalities, takes into account the wider issue around food insecurity and the importance of a healthy diet on health outcomes.
“Ultimately we need to work as a unified team, policy makers, health professionals and importantly the hospitality sector. There are pockets of good practice locally (like our foodscape study) but a broader approach is needed.”
Dr Duane Mellor, Dietitian and Senior Lecturer, Aston Medical School, said:
“It is a shame that the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme that the Chancellor announced does not appear to give much consideration to health and sustainability. A more focused approach, rather than one that includes all types of food and non-alcoholic drinks, could have potentially reinvigorated the High Street as well as encouraged healthier and more environmentally focused consumption. The inclusion of soft drinks could potentially work against the soft drinks industry levee (sugar tax) for example. However, there is not really any good evidence that restaurant discount schemes such as this one have an impact on diet or obesity. It would be a stretch to say that if a large meal is now the cost of a small meal then people will eat more as we do not have enough data to know if this is the case.”
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Dr Duane Mellor: I have no declarations of interest
Prof Amelia Lake: I have no conflicts of interest.