Size matters: portions under fire

Related tags Nutrition

Consumers tempted by bigger portions for less money might be
getting better value but they are also putting their health at
risk, the World Cancer Research Fund in the UK claimed yesterday.
Rising obesity levels - caused in part by a major increase in
portion sizes over the last few years - can lead to a number of
health problems, the organisation warned, calling on industry and
government to take action.

The increasing size of food portions in the UK is being blamed for a rise in the levels of obesity, cancer and other diseases.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF​) said yesterday that the 'big food' phenomenon, which has crossed the Atlantic from the US, was contributing to the health problems there.

The finger was clearly pointed at the food industry, whose supersize and value offerings were pinpointed as encouraging consumers to eat more while paying less. Research from the US presented at a WCRF conference in London showed that the increasing size of food portions on offer there - sometimes two to three times more than they were a decade or so ago - were linked to rising levels of obesity and other serious ailments such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Education, as ever, is the key to combating the problem, according to the WCRF. The 'five-a-day' recommendation regarding fruit and vegetable consumption does appear to be getting through to British consumers, the organisation said, but this would count for little if warnings about reducing fat and sugar intake were ignored or, worse, unheard.

The burden, according to the WCRF, clearly lies with the food industry and government. Food manufacturers need to be aware of the health risks entailed by attempting to win over consumers by offering them more food for less money, while the authorities should do more to highlight the threat from obesity - a risk factor for many common cancers.

The WCRF cited figures which showed that more than 70,000 new cases of cancer in the EU are linked to obesity levels each year, with a massive 9,000 of these coming in the UK alone.

But the UK food industry was quick to respond to the criticisms. "The WCRF has missed its target,"​ said Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF​).

"UK food and drink manufacturers provide many of our favourite products in a wide variety of sizes and styles to suit consumers' varied nutritional needs and tastes. This widens people's choices for building a healthy, balanced diet. Larger packs are not always consumed by one person or at one session and parents can now often choose mini products and multi packs."

He added that the food industry recognised that it had a part to play to combat obesity and that it was already working with the rest of the food chain, government and educators to help people learn more about food and nutrition.

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