Week on a Plate

The week digested: healthy meal kits study and the case for ditching printed receipts

Catch up on the food news from April 15-18, including new research on the link between meat and cancer, as well as a look at nootropics.

18 April 2019

New study adds weight to cancer claims related to meat consumption

It's bad news for bacon lovers, with a new study finding even eating a moderate amount of red and processed meats increases the risk of developing bowel cancer. The Oxford University study followed half a million people across five years and found the average consumption of 76g of red or processed meat per day increased likelihood of bowel cancer by a fifth compared with those who averaged 21g a day. The risks rose in relation to the volumes of red meat consumption.


Receipt rubbish

Almost 10bn receipts were discarded last year by Brits – the equivalent to 53,000 trees, research has found. A campaign is calling on retailers to make receipts digital, particularly as half are printed on thermal paper, which is non-recyclable. KFC, Pure, Itsu and Eat have backed the campaign. Meanwhile, drinks manufacturer Diageo, will start phasing out plastic packaging from mulitpacks of Guinness, Harp, Rockshore and Smithwick’s beer.


Plastic could outweigh fish in North Sea by 2050

On the topic of sustainability, a study by the Marine Biological Association has found a substantial increase in the proliferation of plastic in the North Sea as a byproduct of monitoring plankton populations. Before 2000, the researchers had to clean their Continuous Plankton Recorder once every 200 trawls; now, they do so once every 20. They estimate that the ratio of plastic to plankton is currently 1:2, though at the current rate of pollution plastic could outweigh fish by 2050.


Bill’s makeover pays off

Bill’s refurbishment programme appears to be paying off for the chain as it reported like-for-like sales up 12.2% last month. Thirteen sites have already been upgraded, with a further 11 expected to be completed by summer. The renovation is part of a move to reposition the chain from all-day casual dining to a bar-restaurant offering.

Snacks contribute to strong PepsiCo sales

Strong sales in snacking, plus more people purchasing sugary drinks, has seen PepsiCo report a rise in sales of 5.2% in the first quarter of the year.


Autumn: season of mists and retail fruitlessness

The British Retail Consortium has warned that retailers face a nightmare scenario with the new Brexit deadline as autumn already sees them stockpiling for Black Friday sales and Christmas, while food imported from the EU is significantly higher during this period than the summer months. Fresh fruit and vegetables in particular could be badly affected as Britain relies on southern Mediterranean imports in October.


Better meal kits target childhood obesity

A pilot scheme that provided lower income families with nutritious meal kits for 12 weeks positively influenced the eating habits of children for the next three years and helped to keep them slimmer, research has found. The news comes as Food Spark’s nutritionist highlights the opportunity to introduce affordable, healthier takeaway meals.


Asda looks to change employment terms

As Asda undertakes consultations to cut paid breaks for 3,000 staff, the MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh, has written to Asda’s chief executive, Roger Burnley, claiming that staff involved in the process were likely to be up to £500 worse off a year. Burnley said that customers dictate changes because of the way they shop and the supermarket chain needed flexibility to remain competitive. 


The lowdown on nootropics

In other Asda news, the retailer began stocking Europe’s first nootropic drink this week. To coincide with the launch of Wow Focus, The Telegraph digs into the fad for nootropics: products designed to enhance cognitive function. Thanks to Silicon Valley, the stimulants are spreading beyond pills and powders into beverages, with some calling them the new, more sophisticated energy drinks.

Coffee goes off the boil

More than a million Brits have swapped their coffee for decaf over the last 12 months because they are tired of having their sleep disturbed, according to Mintel. UK shoppers purchased more than 4.5m kilos of instant decaf in the year to March, splashing out £94m.


Costa job cuts

Meanwhile, Whitbread’s sale of Costa Coffee to Coca-Cola could see more than 100 head-office jobs made redundant as the leisure group begins a consultation process. However, Whitbread said around 1,700 new jobs will be created over the next year thanks to more than 40 hotel and restaurant openings planned across the UK.


Ken Hom comes to defence of Gordon Ramsay in cultural appropriation row

Iconic Chinese chef Ken Hom has come to the defence of Gordon Ramsay, speaking as the voice of reason in the debate around cultural appropriation that has engulfed the forthcoming Lucky Cat. While he told The Telegraph that claiming ‘authenticity’ is always a tricky proposition – “what does that mean?” – he added that chefs shouldn’t be criticised simply for cooking outside their native cuisine.


Love it: Marmite packs in the nutrients

Perhaps more chefs should take a leaf out of Lee Westcott’s cookbook and devise items like Marmite butter. After all, it’s chock-full of health benefits thanks to the added vitamins and minerals, as detailed by The Telegraph, including B12 (often missing from vegan diets but essential for bodily health) and folic acid (recommended for pregnant women). However, the paper also notes that if you were hoping to achieve these health benefits from Marmite alone you’d have to eat a huge amount of the spread.


Carbon-controlling plants

The Guardian explores a scientist’s work to design plants capable of storing even more carbon dioxide in their roots to slow down climate change. The idea is to splice the genes of regular crops and everyday plants like beans, corn and cotton with a new compound that makes them absorb more carbon. Their roots then transfer it to the soil to keep it there. 

image credit: Getty Images

The best-before brain-teaser

The founder of a chain of grocery stores in the US conducted a year-long experiment where he ignored use-by dates and ate food when it was well past its labelled safe range. While the US food labelling system is different to the UK, there is similar confusion surrounding best-before and use-by dates provided to consumers, contributing to food waste.


Food inflation stays flat

Growth in food prices slowed to 0.07% in March, ensuring inflation remained flat, official figures revealed.


Tom Kerridge’s two-month process

The Times profiles chef Tom Kerridge as he greets guests at his pub The Hand and Flowers in Marlow. A pub cookbook is planned for January and he reveals it takes two months of testing before a dish makes it on a menu.


Gut health FAQ

Feeling a bit naïve about gut health? The Telegraph asks the basics of Professor Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat. The King’s College London academic explains how prebiotics feed microbes, probiotics are microbes and the ways both can affect a range of ailments, from IBS to obesity.


€200 no-show charge

Hundreds of French restaurants are trying to tackle no shows from diners by signing up to a system that requires card details to be left when booking a table – a reasonable measure, except that some cancellation fees are up to €200 per head.


Domino’s Pizza investors clamour for cull

We finish up the week with an ongoing saga: investors in the UK arm of Domino’s pizza are calling on Chief Executive David Wild to step down immediately. The share price of the company has fallen 40% since its 2016 peak, blamed on a combination of slowing store openings and a troubled European expansion strategy.

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