Children's lunchboxes at top attractions 'loaded with sugar' - but North East destination is among the best

The UK's top visitor attractions are selling pre-prepared children's lunchboxes "loaded" with sugar and processed food as the norm, a charity has claimed.

Wednesday, 19th October 2016, 1:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 7:17 pm

The Soil Association's annual Out to Lunch survey found 75% of children's lunchboxes sold at popular attractions did not include any vegetable or salad option - and 50% offered boxes that included muffins, cakes and sweet treats but no fresh fruit.

However, Durham Cathedral was ranked as one of the healthiest on offer.

The league was put together using information from parents acting as secret diners.

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The parents also reported that few attractions actively provided free fresh drinking water for children, but made sugary drinks readily available for sale - while a lunchbox at one attraction was found to include 36g of sugar - 189% of a child's recommended daily allowance.

The survey found that cost was indication of healthy food, with children's meals at attractions in the bottom five of the league table on average more than £1 more expensive than those in the top five.

A survey for the study found just 14% of parents thought that children's food at popular attractions was good enough.

However, the two top attractions on the annual league table, the Eden Project and Chester Zoo, both offered healthier choices - with Chester Zoo serving locally-sourced milk and farm assured meat, while all meals at the Eden Project were freshly prepared and included locally sourced meat and vegetables.

Soil Association policy officer Rob Percival said: "Visitor attractions are making life hard for parents who want to enjoy a healthy and happy day out.

"Lunchboxes loaded with sugar and unimaginative ultra-processed foods are the norm.

"So long as junk-filled lunchboxes continue to characterise family outings, parents will have a hard time convincing their children that healthy food can be a treat too."

::The Soil Association's league table, ranking attractions on "food you can trust, healthy choice for children, healthy choice for adults, health choice attraction and eating experience", with a score out of 150 (lowest ranking to highest, is):

Natural History Museum (21)

Brighton Pier (22)

British Museum (23)

Alton Towers (24)

Stirling Castle (26)

The National Gallery (28)

National Museum Wales (34)

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (35)

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (39)

ZSL London Zoo (45)

Stonehenge (46)

Mac Birmingham (48)

Millennium Gallery Sheffield (52)

Wales Millennium Centre (52)

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens (54)

Titanic Belfast (65)

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (76)

Durham Cathedral (79)

Chester Zoo (81)

Eden Project (97)