Food manufacturers, retailers and consumers are walking “blindly” into an obesity epidemic, independent nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton has said following a report outlining the UK’s soaring gout problem.
Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk yesterday (January 16), after the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases (ARD) journal published data claiming one in 40 UK people were affected by gout, Ruxton highlighted the ease of access to rich foods as a major cause.
“I think foods have become easier to eat, access and to prepare, so therefore people eat more of the richer foods that they would have eaten less of in the past,” she said.
Men more likely to have gout
UK rates of gout had soared since the 1990s and were the highest in Europe, according to the study. Researchers said men were three times more likely to have gout than women, which Ruxton said made sense as more men than women were overweight.
She also claimed that occasional treats such as cakes, sweets and chocolates, had become a regular part of daily diets, with some people eating them two to three times a day at least.
In Ruxton’s opinion, the “close” relationship between manufacturers, retailers and consumers should be an area of concern. “Consumers demand things, manufacturers produce them and the retailers make it easily accessible,” she said.
“It’s a negative relationship at the moment, where consumers want cheap and tasty things, with no thought to what it is doing to their health.”
Studies, such as the one published in ARD, outlined the current state of the nation’s health, Ruxton added, and called for the food and drinks industry to make more of an effort to curb the problem.
“There’s no effort made to discourage buy one get one free [bogof] offers and to take away sweets from the checkouts.” She explained that removing those could have a major effect on the health of the nation.
Ruxton said such issues should be taken more seriously after the launch of campaigns such as Action on Sugar , which called for food and drink manufacturers to reduce the amount of added sugars in products, blaming them for the UK’s obesity epidemic.
“We know reformulation is difficult and costly, but there are simple things to be done, such as making unhealthy foods less accessible at checkouts and in bogof offers.”
However, Ruxton said sugars were not the main cause of obesity in the UK, rather poor diets and a lack of exercise.
Stakeholders must play their part
Speaking on behalf of food manufacturers, Food and Drink Federation director of communications Terry Jones said: “For our part, manufacturers are changing product recipes, creating new healthier options, investing in consumer education and providing clear nutritional information to enable healthier choices.
“Manufacturers, health professionals and other stakeholders must all play their part in helping individuals to gain a realistic understanding of the foods and drink that they consume, and how they can fit into a healthy diet.”
While Andrew Opie, food director at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Consumers know the health benefits of a balanced diet and we are helping them to choose one by the comprehensive and consistent use of front of pack labelling and a massive choice of affordable, healthy products.”
Read the report here .