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Food for thought

The first year results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey by the Food Standards Agency represent a bit of a curate’s egg. Whilst some areas show pleasing improvement, there is genuine cause for concern regarding others.

Saturated fat intakes in adults have reduced modestly to 12.8% of food energy, down from 13.3% in 2000/01. On average adults are eating 4.4 portions of fruit and vegetables daily – although with little more than a third of men and women meeting the five-a-day guideline, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Perhaps of greater concern is the fact that only seven percent of girls aged between 11 and 18 eat their five-a-day. Add to this the fact that little more than half the girls in this group have sufficient iron intake, and you have a flashing warning light.

I’ve heard it said a thousand times that junk food advertising is at the root of dietary issues in teenagers, and if the whole problem were caused by advertisements, it would be easy to understand why advertising was making the news so much recently.   To me this is just a convenient catch-all.   If all food advertising were to be banned, would obesity disappear? Where do eating disorders fit in this debate?.

I can understand how manufacturers feel pilloried in the food debate, particularly where young people are concerned, and why to an extent they have withdrawn from addressing teenagers directly.  The result is that many well meaning messages are delivered regarding what should be eaten in terms of daily salt, sugar and fat intake, but few actual healthy products are promoted to young people. In this way you have the branded and promoted fast food outlet competing against a generic “eat a proper breakfast of fruit, cereal etc” message.  No contest!

The answer must surely lie in better education and better information generally.

The undeniable fact is that we all have to eat, that some things are better for us than others, but moderation is advisable even in the eating of oily fish!

Surely it makes sense for manufacturers, even those who have not been blameless in the past, to feel a little more comfortable in promoting healthier brands to young people, rather than leaving the field entirely to the fast food chains?

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