Charity calls for review of food portion sizes

Charity calls for review of food portion sizes

Portion sizes of some foods have soared over the past two decades, encouraging people to eat more and undermining the fight against obesity, according to a report.


The British Heart Foundation (BHF) compared the portion sizes of 245 products sold now with those listed in a 1993 government publication showing the typical weights and portions sizes of foods eaten in Britain and found that many bore little resemblance to the amounts previously specified.


Individual shepherd's pie ready meals have doubled in size; a stated portion of peanuts is 80% larger, while individual chicken curry ready meals and a portion of crisps from a family pack are both 50% bigger. There were also large variations by brand.


In June the government announced a new voluntary system of front-of-pack food labelling to provide greater clarity on content amid concerns about poor diet fuelling health problems including heart disease.


The BHF says inconsistent advice from different suppliers over what constitutes a portion means consumers will remain confused.


"It's important we get portion sizes on products right because when people are presented with more food, they eat more food," said the BHF chief executive, Simon Gillespie.


"The UK government has not updated its information on typical portion sizes for 20 years and there is currently no legislation relating to portion sizes. It's time for an urgent review so the portion size playing field is levelled and consumers can be helped to make healthier choices."


On other products, such as vanilla ice cream and oven chips, the BHF found that portion sizes as outlined on packaging had shrunk, while in some cases the recommended amount was unrealistically small.


When the BHF asked members of the public to pour out the suggested 30g portion of cornflakes, 88% gave themselves more.


Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at BHF said the traffic light-coded food labels would only be as accurate as the information they were based on. "It's vital these labels use consistent and realistic portions so shoppers know exactly what they're getting," she said.


The BHF is urging the government to carry out a full review of portion sizes, to ascertain what is the current average and then encourage the food industry to adhere to the new guidelines. A third of children and nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese.

By Haroon Siddique

The Guardian, 20th October 2013

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