Week on a Plate

The week digested: M&S falls out of FTSE and vegetarian diets linked to strokes

Catch up on the food news from September 2-6, including Amazon’s new hand payment system and carbon ‘foodprints.’

6 September 2019

Wagamama to take over Frankie & Benny’s sites

The Restaurant Group has announced it will close more than 100 Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito sites over the next six years, after reporting a pre-tax loss of £87m for the first half of the year. It will convert 15 of the sites to Wagamama branches – sales grew by 10.6% for the Asian chain.


M&S falls out of FTSE

Marks & Spencer will exit the FTSE 100 after its share price hit a 20-year low. It’s set to close 120 stores, but some analysts say it was the clothing side, which accounts for the bulk of its profits, that was dragging the business down.


Vegetarian diet could cause stroke

It’s a mixed bag for health if you’re following a vegetarian diet, with a new study finding it lowers the risk of heart disease but increases the risk of having a stroke by a fifth. The University of Oxford research suggests lower cholesterol in the diet could mean both lower risk of heart disease and more susceptibility to certain types of strokes, while the lack of certain vitamins like B12 could also be a contributory factor. However, the study relied on people self-reporting which means more research is needed.


Small cuts in cholesterol translate to big health rewards

On the positive side of new research, Cambridge University has found that just a small reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure can have a big impact on lowering heart attacks and strokes, reducing heart problems by 80%.


Palmed off

First it was checkout-free stores, now Amazon is preparing to trial a system that would allow customers to pay using their hands. The technology works using cameras that measure the size and shape of the hand; when identity is confirmed, payment is approved.


Autumnal menus at Gregg’s and Costa

Gregg’s introduced autumn items to its menu yesterday (September 5), featuring peri peri chicken in both a baguette and a wrap, chipotle chilli steak baguette, BBQ chicken and bacon toastie, and porridge spiced with apple and cinnamon. Costa also decided to unveil its seasonal additions on Thursday, touting Lotus Biscoff muffins and vegan chocolate, caramel and hazelnut cookies.

Rise of the carbon ‘foodprint’

The Independent interviews US chef Anthony Myint, whose Perennial Farming Initiative just won the Basque Culinary World Prize. His project asks restaurants to sign up to have their carbon ‘foodprint’ assessed, then encourages them to make changes to improve what can be improved while offsetting the remainder through a carbon charge on customers’ bills, which is used to pay farmers to engage in sustainable farming. It’s part of a trend Food Spark has noted before towards more transparency around the carbon emissions associated with foodservice.


Tax proposed on biscuits, cakes and sweets

Researchers have proposed a 20% snack tax on biscuits, cakes and sweets to curb obesity levels in the UK, claiming it would be more effective than the sugar tax on soft drinks. They estimated that the tax would reduce the annual average energy intake by about 8,900 calories, allowing people to shed 1.3kg over a year, compared to just 203g of weight loss with the sugar tax.


Brits back insects

Nearly a third of Brits think the nation will be eating insects in the next 10 years, according to new research. The Agricultural Biotechnology Council, a group that advocates for the use of genetically modified crops in the UK, also said its research found that 72% of people support technology that would encourage new plant breeding techniques like gene editing to tackle crop shortages. A new YouGov survey also backed bugs, with 37% of respondents believing insect consumption will increase in the next 10 years, with almost half of the 18-24 age group backing the diet change.


Even diet drinks are associated with early death

Just two soft drinks a day – even the diet variety – can significantly increase the risk of dying early, new research has found. Scientists called for more studies into the effects on the body of specific artificial sweeteners that are commonly used, such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium, and suggested people avoid all types of soft drinks.


Suppliers targeted by new sustainability report

The top 50 global meat, dairy and fish producers, who supply to brands like McDonald’s, Tesco and Nestle, are failing to address their environmental impact on issues like deforestation, antibiotic use and greenhouse gas emissions, a report warned.


Just Eat merger jeopardised

One of the top 10 shareholders at Just Eat will vote against its merger with Dutch rival Takeaway.com, saying the sales terms do not reflect the value of the London company.


Scottish vertical farming system goes global

A Scottish company is taking its vertical farming systems global. Intelligent Growth Solutions offers lower energy lighting for indoor growing and software to monitor how plants grow and expects its first crop in the Middle East, while also opening offices in the US and Asia.


Self-supplying water

John Lewis and Waitrose will join other businesses like Greene King, Whitbread, Marston’s, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola European Partners and Heineken to become its own water supplier to save costs and meet its sustainability target.


Staff are contractually obliged to avoid plastic

A Sheffield company that recently banned single-use plastic from its offices is taking the issues so seriously it will change its employee contracts to make it a disciplinary offence to bring plastic in. Breaches will see staff given three warnings and if ignored they could be sacked. The boss has provided free cakes and fruit as snacks so staff can avoid needing to bring in plastic-wrapped treats.


Bad diet leaves teenager deaf and blind

A 17-year-old is believed to be the first person in the UK to lose his hearing and sight due to unhealthy eating habits. The boy dined daily on chips, crisps, white bread and processed meat for approximately 10 years, according to a report, which aimed to demonstrate the impact poor eating can have on our senses. His diet has also raised awareness of a condition known as avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), which manifests as an avoidance of certain foods or food types.

image credit: Getty Images

New street food market preview

Kerb's latest venture, Seven Dials Market, is set to open this weekend. The full line-up of the 25 food and drink traders has been announced, including Pick & Cheese and Monty’s Deli.


Pop star releases cookbook

Former pop star and BBC Radio 6 presenter Cerys Matthews has released her debut cookbook, called Where the Wild Cook Go. It includes recipes from her childhood in Wales, her adult life in England and from travels to Japan, Jamaica and Morocco while also suggesting a playlist for specific dishes.


Taking tins to the next level

The Guardian leaves the baked beans behind to take a look at some of the more unusual foods that can be found in a tin can, including Caribbean ackee (a relative of the lychee) and callaloo (leafy green vegetable), as well as Turkish goat’s cheese.

image credit: Getty Images

Is Israeli cuisine guilty of cultural appropriation?

With Israeli cuisine on the rise around the world, the Financial Times discusses Palestinian claims about cultural appropriation associated with some of the dishes.


Lidl accused of idea theft

A London marketer has accused Lidl of stealing the idea for their bargain aisle after he pitched the concept back in 2010 and has requested a meeting to discuss a breach of confidential information.


Government assessing no-deal impact on food

Tender documents have revealed that Campden BRI was awarded a £34,000 contract by the UK government last month to investigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the most vulnerable production processes for essential food, with a list of at-risk ingredients including milk, dairy products, fish, flour and bread. It was due to deliver the report on August 16, assessing scenarios like switching transportation routes and the perishability of goods if they need to be stored.


Pub in the Park

Food festival Pub in the Park is coming to London for the first time this weekend. Hosted by Tom Kerridge, it will feature a range of pub pop-ups dishing up food plus cooking demonstrations.


Vegan success stories

The Guardian looks at the vegan launches paying dividends for companies, from Greggs to Leon to Papa John’s, and how this trend is here to stay.

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