The Soil Association – the UK's leading food and farming charity and organic certification body – conducted a survey of 600 parents who each visited and reviewed more than 100 food establishments.
The charity used the parents’ findings to create the “Out to Lunch” league table, which ranks supermarket eateries based on the quality and sustainability of their children’s meals.
The report found “irresponsible” menus in many British supermarket cafes, including Marks & Spencer Cafe which served no vegetables in its children's offerings and Tesco Cafe, Giraffe and Wagamama which all failed to serve any British meat.
Furthermore, Tesco, Ask Italian, Giraffe, Hungry Horse, Prezzo, and Zizzi were unable to trace the meat they served to children back to the farm.
The campaign said chains were failing to support British farmers by serving chicken from Thailand and Brazil, meat from Hungary and Uruguay, fish from China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, cucumbers from the Canary Islands, tomatoes from Tunisia and Senegal and mushrooms from Poland.
Children's meals in the highest scoring chains were also found to be on average £1 cheaper than meals in the lowest scoring chains, which the Soil Association states proves that “price isn’t a barrier to good food”.
Several chains involved in the survey were found to offer “excessively sugary” puddings, including Hungry Horse's Mini-Mania Sundae which contained 56.2 grams of sugar - more than double a child's recommended daily sugar allowance.
Others, including Bella Italia and Giraffe, also served children single-use plastics such as cups and straws.
One parent reported six plastic cups and straws were given to her two children at Giraffe.
Supermarket cafes were included in the league table for the first time, but generally scored near the bottom of the table.
Diners found mouldy fruit at Morrisons Cafe while and Asda Cafe declined to say whether it used free-range eggs.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Pizza Express and Tesco Cafe ranked at the bottom of the league table.
The Soil Association policy officer Hattie Shepherd said the findings show that many chains are being “irresponsible and failing to offer children the food they deserve”.
“Parents would be shocked if they knew popular chains were dishing up deforestation to their children - especially when it's clear from top performing chains like Wetherspoon and Ikea that cost isn't a barrier to healthy and sustainable food,” Shepherd said.
”And why are British chains and supermarkets sourcing meat from Thailand and China over British farmers? Our children deserve better.“
A Tesco spokesman added: ”Our Cafe team are dedicated to serving our customers high quality food. We are constantly reviewing our customer offer and as part of recent menu changes we now serve British meat, including our sausages and burgers.
“In addition, across our cafes all our milk is British, our eggs are free range and our fish fingers are MSC-certified.”
As a result of its findings, the Soil Association is now calling on all restaurant chains and supermarket cafes to take four simple steps to improve the service and food they offer children.
This includes, serving two portions of veg with every child’s meal, making water freely available to discourage sugary drinks for children, serving children’s portions of adult dishes and using quality ingredients such as free range and organic produce.
The Independent has contacted Morrison's for comment.
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