SCOTLAND - It is “a certainty” that 40 per cent of Scots will be obese by the end of the decade unless restaurants and coffee shops start reducing portion sizes, using healthier ingredients and introducing calorie counts on menus, the food standards watchdog has warned. The catering industry must start taking greater responsibility for the often seriously unhealthy food it sells to customers and young children, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) says in a report published today.
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In a major blow to efforts to reduce obesity levels, it found that Scottish children who eat out are more likely to consume high-calorie foods such as burgers, chips, fried chicken, ice cream and sugary drinks than their peers in other parts of the UK.
One large fast food chain has become so popular among children that it provided more than a third of meals served to under-12s in Scotland last year, the research reveals. It did not name the brand involved.
The watchdog, which has previously warned it is becoming the “norm” for people to be overweight to the point of illness, said evidence suggested that Scots are eating out more than they used to.
Research released alongside the report shows that the number of people eating away from home rose by 3 per cent last year – a greater increase than any other European country studied.
Chips, cakes and burgers
The increase was mainly driven by an increase in visits to cheap fast food outlets such as fish and chip shops, which usually have less healthy options.
The top three most popular foods to eat away from home were chips, cakes and burgers.
FSS chief executive Geoff Ogle said current predictions that 40 per cent of the Scottish population would be clinically obese by 2030 would become “a certainty” if the nation’s restaurants, fast food chains and coffee shops continued to ignore the issue.
“As well as encouraging individuals to choose healthier options when eating out, it is vital that businesses also play their part, through reformulation of products to reduce calories, fats, sugars and salt, reductions in portion sizes and less promotion of products that are high in fat, sugar and salt,” he added.
The research shows that Scots ate out an estimated 948 million times last year, with one in five citing the fact they were busy at work as a major reason.
Although Scots eat out more often than people in the rest of the UK, they tend to spend less.
William Macleod, executive director of the Scottish branch of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), said it was a “positive” thing that more Scots were eating out.
“Together with our members we have long been working to reduce calories, cut sugar and salt in products,” he added.
“To assist our members the BHA is working to create a nutrition guide which will provide sensible and manageable ways to provide more healthy menu options.”
The FSS research applies to fast food outlets, restaurants, pubs, cafes and coffee shops. The only catering sectors excluded from the study were hospital, school or prison meals and events catering.
Source Chris Green, iNews
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