UK food industry welcomes DOH dietary survey findings

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Five-a-day? Adults are getting close, children less so
Five-a-day? Adults are getting close, children less so
The UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has welcomed a nutrition and dietary habits survey published this week by the UK government which found positive shifts in key areas including trans-fat consumption levels.

The report that found adult eating habits in areas like fruit and vegetables were much healthier than those of children, recorded trans-fat consumption among all age groups as 0.7-0.9% of food energy, significantly below recommendations of 2%.

Responding, UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of food safety and science, Barbara Gallani, said: “The survey shows there are now very low level of trans fats in our diets, less than half of the government’s recommendations, which clearly indicates how effectively the industry has responded to this public health requirement by voluntarily reformulating products.”

“It is also positive to note that average fruit and vegetable consumption is approaching five portions a day and we look forward to working with the government in the next phase of the responsibility deal to help make it even easier for consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables.”

The survey found 19-64 year old adults consumed on average 4.2 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and older adults (4.4 portions for over-65s), compared to the five-a-day Department of Health (D0H) target. That meant 30% of adults and 37% of older adults met the five-a-day recommendation.

But children’s habits were worse with 11-18 year old boys only getting 3.1 portions, and only 13% meeting the target, while girls of the same age consumed 2.7 portions on average with just 7% meeting the recommendation.

Despite this the DOH said overall youthful eating habits were moving in the right direction. "Younger children's eating habits are improving, with parents taking positive steps to give their kids a healthier diet with fewer sweets, fizzy drinks, chocolate, and also switching them to high-fibre cereals. Comparing this survey with the previous survey in 1997, younger children (age 4-10) appear to be switching to high-fibre breakfast cereals from non-high-fibre cereals, eating more fruit and vegetables, and less confectionery and soft drinks."

False optimism?

But the Health Minister, Paul Burstow, was more wary of the results and trends. "Over the last ten years we have not seen the improvements we should have,"​ he said, adding, it is, "ridiculous for government to argue that companies like Mars, McDonald's, PepsiCo and Pizza Hut should write the government's health policies. They have no interest in young people eating more fruit and vegetables. They make their profits peddling sweets, fizzy drinks and processed foods."

The European Food Information Council’s director general, Dr Josephine Wills was also less than enthusiastic about the findings.

When EUFIC conducted its 2008 pan-European consumer survey of use and understanding of nutrition information, we found that 96% of UK consumers knew they should increase their fruit and vegetable consumption, but these UK data show that what people actually consume is still a long way off. So, it is not a lack of awareness of what they should be doing when it comes to consuming fruit and vegetables.”

Other key findings

  • Mean saturated fat intakes for all age groups exceeded the recommended level of no more than 11 per cent of food energy. The mean saturated fat intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years was 12.8 per cent of food energy
  • Mean intakes of non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES) exceeded the recommendation of no more than 11 per cent of food energy for children aged 4 to 18 years and adults aged 19 to 64 years
  • 61 per cent of adults (aged 19-64) and 53 per cent of older adults (aged 65 years and over) consumed alcohol during the four-day diary. Adults who had consumed alcohol obtained 9 per cent of energy intake from alcohol in the 19 to 64 age group and 6 per cent in the 65 years and over group.

The survey can be found here.

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