Wednesday, 31 October 2012

There was a certain grim inevitability...

There was a certain grim inevitability to the news that Tesco is to launch a traffic light colour coding system to let its customers know how ‘healthy’ or otherwise the food it sells is.

Those lobbying to change the nation’s eating habits have been pushing hard at Britain’s supermarkets, as well as pub and restaurant operators, to make nutritional information available on ready meals and menus.  As the UK’s biggest retailer, Tesco was an important scalp for the campaign.

I have no problem with giving consumers information which they want, and in ensuing that we all understand what a balanced diet is.  However, I’m deeply wary of people who want to decide what’s good for me, and I suspect those lobbying to change the nation’s eating and drinking habits fall into that category.

A reminder of the practical challenge facing busy pub kitchens was bought home recently when I spent a very pleasant morning preparing food in the development kitchen at Wadworth’s Brewery in Devizes. Cooking with a group of seven others, we cheerfully greased baking trays liberally with butter, sliced chips into non-uniform sizes, and dipped fish into bowls of freshly made batter.

Even with many of the ingredients pre-weighed, it’s a safe bet that no two meals served up at lunch that day had the same nutritional value. Frankly, none of us cared too much as we tucked in and, and that, I suspect, is why the – mainly self-appointed – health lobbyists have a problem.  We all need to mix the healthy with the indulgent, but the eating out is definitely a time for the latter.

I won’t argue that the smoking ban wasn’t positive in public health terms, even if I’d like politicians to acknowledge that it had unintended consequences in terms of hastening the decline of many wet-led pubs. Pushing pubs down the route of menu labelling would mean, in practice, that operators would have to buy in pre-labelled dishes, and would mark the triumph of bought-in food over freshly-made.  Would that really be better for us?

Menuwatch:  The rise of the takeaway continues. Having pioneered the take-home carvery at its Toby and Crown brands last year, Mitchells & Butlers has introduced a takeaway menu at its Ember Inns pubs which includes burgers, fish & chips, sandwiches and even steak and ale pie. If you don’t eat it at the pub, is it still pub grub? I’m not so sure…
This 'Pub Food With Porter' column appears in the October 2012 issue of Inapub   

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