Week on a Plate

The week digested: government’s salt scheme blamed for deaths and Stonegate becomes UK’s biggest pub operator

Catch up on the food news from July 15-19, including the proposed national health index and Waitrose’s third round of store closures.

19 July 2019
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Study lays blame for thousands of deaths on salt-reduction scheme

More than 10,000 people have died from heart disease or stomach cancer due to the government’s decision in 2011 to allow the food industry to set its own salt-reduction targets, according to a study by Imperial College London that linked the Public Health Responsibility Deal to salt-related deaths. “Public-private partnerships such as the responsibility deal, which lack robust and independent target setting, monitoring and enforcement are unlikely to produce optimal health gains,” the study drily noted. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, responded by pointing out that, while more needs to be done, “voluntary action on salt reduction has helped to reduce the nation’s salt intake by 11 per cent, to 8 grams per day.”


Stonegate purchases the Ei to become UK’s biggest pub operator

Stonegate Pubs has agreed to buy the Ei Group for £3bn, making it the UK’s biggest pub operator. The deal will see Ei’s 4,000 estimated pubs added to Stonegate existing portfolio of approximately 770, including brands like Slug and Lettuce, Walkabout and Yates.


Waitrose to shut seven stores

In the third wave of closures since the beginning of 2018, Waitrose has announced it will be selling off four stores – three of them to Lidl. It will also be shuttering a further three locations. The business has said it will relocate staff where possible, but estimates suggest 1,300 people have lost their jobs due to closures in the past 18 months.


National health index to drive government policy

The UK Government is planning to introduce a national health index, based on NHS and life expectancy data, that will track changes in public wellness just like GDP. As part of the proposal, measures to tackle obesity, including extending the food traffic light warning system to takeaways and restaurants, will be recommended. The news comes as official statistics reveal that the number of unusable organs due to obesity has nearly double since 2009/10, meaning fewer are available for transplants.


More details on plastic bottle scheme

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said that all drink bottles and cans will be subject to a refundable deposit as part of a deposit-return scheme set to be introduced in England in 2023. Reverse vending machines will be incorporated, in a bid to improve recycling and reduce litter. About 13bn plastic drinks bottles are sold in the UK each year with three-quarters recycled, leaving more than 3bn to be incinerated, sent to landfill or dropped as litter.


Food concerns make quick US trade deal impossible

Philip Hammond has said it would be impossible for his prime ministerial rival, Boris Johnson, to reach a quick trade deal with the US, citing considerations like different food hygiene practices, animal welfare and access to farm produce.


Franco Manca owner aims for 10 new sites

The owner of Franco Manca and The Real Greek is looking to open 10 more sites by March next year, as it hopes to take advantage of low rents on the high street owing to recent closures. Fulham Shore also revealed revenues rose 17% to £64m in the year to March 2019.

image credit: Franco Manca

Just Eat delivers Greggs

Greggs has signed up to Just Eat so that its food can be delivered from three stores in London, as well as in Newcastle and Glasgow. For a limited time, there will no minimum speed and free delivery for everything from bacon rolls to sandwiches.


Caravan owners tease new concept

The team behind Caravan are opening a new concept in the autumn in Chelsea called Vardo, with a menu focused on low and slow cooking and inspired by the notion of a wagon travelling the world collecting produce and flavours. Dishes include slow-braised carrots with brined mustard greens and aji blanco; charred aubergine with saffron buttermilk dressing and grilled Turkish chilli; green baked eggs with lentil, pine nut and kale ragu and a dish of baharat-rubbed lamb cutlets served with green harissa and tahini. 


Insects are bursting with antioxidants

Commercially available insects have five times the antioxidants of orange juice, new research has found, particularly grasshoppers, silkworm and crickets. A study by Italy’s University of Teramo also concluded that silkworm, giant cicada and African caterpillar fat has twice the antioxidant power of olive oil.


Bagel boost

New Yorkers’ love affair with the traditional bagel could be over as other circular breads muscle in on its territory, according to The Times. Alternatives include options like the Turkish simit, the Jerusalem bagel (wider, thinner, oval shaped and made of dough that is not boiled before baking) and the Montreal bagel, which is boiled in honey and baked in a woodburning oven.

image credit: Getty Images

Fishy business

The UK Government has come under fire for failing to properly implement a ban on healthy and edible fish being discarded at sea. A committee of the House of Lords reported that fish is being wasted and called for electronic monitoring to be introduced. Meanwhile, a new website called Fishyleaks has been launched to allow whistle blowers to report illegal or unethical practices in the fishing industry.


New report claims current farming system is unsustainable

The UK’s food and farming system must be radically transformed to ensure its sustainable in the next 10 years, switching from intensive farming to organic and wildlife friendly production, raising livestock on grass and growing more nuts and pulses, according to a new report. Published by the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, it criticised government policy that has encouraged cheaper food production, fuelling environment and health problems.


Self-service cocktails

Liquorette is claiming to the first self-service cocktail bar in London. Opened in Fitzrovia, customers can pull their cocktails from pre-filled taps but will be able to choose their own glasses, garnishes, accessories and amount of ice.

image credit: Liquorette

Do we need a second wave of French food?

The Guardian looks at how French food fell out of favour after rising to soaring popularity and whether a new school of traditionalists can revive the cuisine to its former glory.


Flipping the Bird

Fried chicken chain Bird claims bank lending has stopped for small businesses, as it attempts to avoid going into administration. The brand is weighing up various options, including securing new investment, a company voluntary arrangement with creditor approval or a pre-pack sale. Bird co-founder Paul Hemings says the chain, which has five sites, has been trading solidly but the withdrawal of an overdraft from Metro Bank created cashflow problems.


Is popcorn healthier than a packet of crisps?

How healthy is gourmet popcorn? The Telegraph sticks its hands into the bags of six different brands to find out, rating Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn and Propercorn cream of the crop when it comes to health and taste. Tyrell’s Poshcorn, however, scores the best on flavour alone. While popcorn sales have dipped in recent years, some ‘healthier’ popcorn brands claim they are seeing double-digit growth.

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