New award planned for healthier take-aways and restaurants in Dacorum and Herts

The scheme is designed to improve the health impact of food and drinks available in take-aways, cafes and restaurants
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A NEW Herts Responsible Food Award scheme is being developed by Hertfordshire County Council – in a bid to make food outlets healthier and to impact on obesity levels.

The accreditation scheme – due to be piloted in 2024/25 – is designed to improve the health impact of food and drinks available in take-aways, cafes and restaurants.

And it would accredit outlets for offering healthier options – whether reducing the amount of salt, saturated fats and sugars or increasing the number of healthier options available.

New healthy food reward scheme announced. Photo: Roman - stock.adobe.comNew healthy food reward scheme announced. Photo: Roman -
New healthy food reward scheme announced. Photo: Roman -

The plans were highlighted to county councillors on Tuesday (27 February), during a day-long scrutiny of obesity in the county.

During the day councillors heard that three in five adults in Hertfordshire (60.8 per cent) are either overweight or living with obesity.

And one in three children county-wide are either overweight or obese by the time they are 11 years old.

They also heard that the “food environment” was one of a number of “drivers” of weight gain.

And it was reported that the proximity and variety of food outlets – whether supermarkets or take-aways – could influence food choices.

Following the meeting director of public health Sarah Perman said that obesity was “one of the biggest health challenges of our time”. And she revealed the planned accreditation scheme was in response to residents views.

Obesity is one of the biggest health challenges of our time, with serious implications for individual health and wellbeing as well as the public purse,” she said.

“Whilst our rates are slightly lower than the national average, we still face worryingly high numbers in Hertfordshire, and we have several innovative projects underway to tackle obesity at a system level as well as our child and adult weight management services to provide individual support. “A recent survey indicated that over 87 per cent of our residents want local food outlets to include healthier options,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “In response, our Responsible Food Award accreditation scheme has been developed in collaboration with local food businesses, to make healthy and sustainable food options more readily available and healthier choices easier for people to make.”

As well as accrediting take-aways, cafes or restaurants for offering healthier food options, the Herts Responsible Food Award scheme could recognise outlets where staff members have a greater understanding of nutrition.

And it could also recognise where businesses were being run sustainably – supporting changes that would lead to more sustainable practices such as recycling, carbon emission reduction and management of waste food.

Any changes, says the report, could help businesses to attract new customers, as well as helping businesses to save money an improve their reputation.

And plans are being drawn up to pilot the Herts Responsible Food Award in Broxbourne in 2024/25 – focussing on Waltham Cross and Cheshunt electoral wards.

At the meeting it was highlighted to councillors that take-aways can be concentrated in areas of most deprivation – were data shows obesity levels are highest.

And councillors also considered how planning policies could be used to support healthier food environments.

Examples reported to the panel included possible restrictions on the number of hot food take-aways in close proximity to schools, in areas of greater deprivation, where childhood obesity is high or where there is already a high density of fast-food outlets.