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4,000 50% 3,330 Health experts' concern as ready-meal portions expand; THE SIZE OF A SHEPHERD'S PIE HAS DOUBLED IN PAST 20 YEARS.

Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR West Wales Editor rachael.misstear@walesonline.co.uk

The number of people who die from coronary heart disease each year The increase in the size of ready meals and family-sized crisp bags over the past 20 years the number of calories increase for plain sweetmeal biscuits compared to 1993 INDIVIDUAL ready meals and family-sized crisp bags have ballooned in size by 50% in the past 20 years, according to a new report into portion sizes in Wales.

The British Heart Foundation's Portion Distortion report compared the portion sizes of 245 products sold now with the portion sizes listed in a 1993 government publication showing "typical weights and portions sizes of foods eaten in Britain".

Simon Gillespie, chief executive at British Heart Foundation Cymru, said there is currently no legislation relating to portion sizes and consumers are inadvertently eating unhealthy amounts of food.

He subsequently called for an urgent review into the issue to ensure consumers in Wales can be helped to make healthier choices.

The report findings show on average an individual shepherd's pie ready meal has almost doubled in size since 1993, increasing by 98%.

The BHF said while the size of some portions has doubled, others are so varied between different suppliers and manufacturers that trying to make comparisons is impossible.

The charity's report reveals a portion of plain sweetmeal biscuits has increased in size by 17%. It means if you were to eat one biscuit daily now, compared to 1993, you'd be adding 3,330 calories to your diet each year.

However, the report shows some portions sizes stated on pack have actually shrunk, including vanilla ice cream and oven chips.

It also found huge variations in portion sizes among different brands. For example, some individual cauliflower cheese ready meals were larger than the 235g 1993 portion but some were smaller.

An average portion of plain bagels has increased in size by a quarter (24%) but portions again varied across different brands, meaning if you eat one bagel a day and opt for the smallest portion size on offer you could avoid a potential weight gain of 51/2 lbs over the year.

Mr Gillespie said: "Portion sizes in the UK are often inconsistent and misleading and we need to take control.

"It's important we get portion sizes on products right because when people are presented with more food, they eat more food.

"The UK Government has not updated its information on typical portion sizes for 20 years and there is currently no legislation relating to portion sizes.

"It's time for an urgent review so the playing field is levelled and consumers in Wales can be helped to make healthier choices."

Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, added: "The portion information on the new front-of-pack labelling system is only as accurate as the information it's based on. It's vital these labels use consistent and realistic portions so shoppers know exactly what they're getting."

BHF said cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK, more than 159,000 deaths each year. More than 4,000 people in Wales die from coronary heart disease each year.

Poor diets can contribute significantly to the onset of heart disease - with diets that are high in fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit and vegetables accounting for 31% of all deaths from CHD in developed countries.

Swansea nutritionist Kirsten Davies, founder of The Food Remedy, said the portion size issue was irrelevant.

"I believe this is a much wider issue than the portion sizes. This is about what we are eating.

"I think the problem is 10 years ago people weren't having ready meals everyday. They weren't a staple part of our diet. Over time many have come to rely on them I think people have forgotten that food is responsible for our health.

"Nutrition is so important and, if you're having something out of a packet that you ping in a microwave every day, regardless of the size or portion you're not going to be healthy."

Ceredigion dietician Gaynor Bussell who previously worked for the Food & Drinks Federation, drawing up daily guideline amounts (DGA) said the report was a little misleading.

"People are now being encouraged to read the daily guidance amounts, which tells people how many portions a packet of food provides and how much of their daily allowance that is.

No manufacturer wants to create a product which has a high calorie count.

"Some portions have got bigger, but we need to be aware of that and make healthy choices, being aware of DGAs and so on."

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A charity boss is calling for an urgent review into portion sizes to ensure consumers can make healthier choices
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 22, 2013
Words:792
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