Consumers give their views on eating out
Sunday 22 June 2008
The Food Standards Agency has today published a survey of more than 2,000 people across the UK that provides a snapshot of what consumers want when they eat out. The questions will help the Agency to develop more in-depth research to inform future activity in this area and were posed as part of an omnibus survey.
The findings show that 85% of people agreed with the statement that restaurants, pubs and cafes have a responsibility to make it clear what is in the food they serve. In addition, when asked where respondents would expect to see nutritional information for it to be most useful, 81% of people said they would like to see it at the point when they order food, such as on the menu in a restaurant, or visible when they are buying a sandwich or a muffin in a coffee shop or cafe. In contrast, only 2% of respondents said they would find it useful on company websites.
We know there is variation around whether people want the food they eat out to be changed and whether they want information about what is in it at all. When given various options, overall 63% of people said they would like information about what is in their food when they eat out – 41% wanted information and food to be made healthier by catering establishments, while 22% wanted food to remain the same but wanted nutrition information about it.
‘Mums are the gatekeepers when it comes to choosing food for their family and the information that's available when eating out should be the same as in the retail environment’
FSA Chief Executive Tim Smith said: 'When we buy food from a retail outlet, it’s very clear from the packet what’s in the food and we then have control how much salt and fat we add at home. When we eat out, we are asked to suspend any interest in nutritional content of food as the information isn't universally available.
'We know that some companies are already doing a really good job and they are getting behind us with this work. Some of this work isn't as visible and we know companies are starting from different points and we're actively working with different parts of the industry to achieve more progress. There is no reason why I shouldn’t see the same information, perhaps presented in a different way, when I eat out of home than when I shop for food in a supermarket.
'Mums are the gatekeepers when it comes to choosing food for their family and the information that's available when eating out should be the same as in the retail environment, when choice is governed by range, price and good nutritional information. When she goes to a restaurant, she wants the same quality of information to help steer choices for her kids. Having that choice gives parents reassurance that they're managing, in an appropriate way, the food their children eat.'
The Agency is working to encourage as many catering companies as possible to provide healthier meals. We are in discussion with a range of quick service and family dining restaurants, cafes, sandwich shops and pub chains so that this part of the industry participates in the Agency's salt and saturated fat activity. We recognise the diversity in the catering sector means that a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate and are developing a practical approach that is suitable for a variety of businesses. We are encouraging companies to make commitments to improvements in these areas:
- kitchen practice
- menu planning
- consumer information
We also plan to work with businesses in the sector and other stakeholders to develop recommendations on provision of nutrition information. These recommendations will be based on consumer research and may be different to multiple traffic light and Guideline Daily Amount approaches that have worked well in the retail environment.