Auckland university academics are pleading with manufacturers of takeaway food in New Zealand to reduce serving sizes, saying they – along with energy and sodium levels – have increased significantly in the past five years.
A study of fast food trends, led by Dr Helen Eyles, analysing around 5500 fast food products across 12 food groups and 10 major fast food chains says serving size has increased by 5%…with associated increases of 6% in energy density, 14% in energy per serve and a 12% increase in sodium.
“Our fast food chains should make changes in line with the ‘Healthy Kids Industry’ pledge as part of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, including measurable reductions to the serve size and overall healthiness of products,” Eyles says.
For some food groups, large negative changes have been seen for several of these measures. Serve size, energy per serve and sodium per serve have gone up in desserts and pizzas; and sodium density, energy per serve and sodium per serve have gone up in sandwiches and salads.
“However, there was some good news from the study, with Asian fast food products displaying large significant decreases in serve size and energy per serve over the five years,” Eyles says. “Also, when researchers looked for potential improvements in products available for sale over two or more of the five years, they found a reduction in sodium density, which indicated some positive change or reformulation over time. Overall, New Zealand fast foods have become larger and more energy dense over the past five years. Reduction of sodium in products available for some time is a welcome improvement, but this has been offset by overall increases in serve size.”
The 5% increase over the five-year period, which increased the amount of energy and sodium per serve, may have also increased other nutrients not measured, such as sugar.
Fast food trends in New Zealand is part of the Dietary Interventions: Evidence & Translation (DIET) programme funded by the Health Research Council and led by Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu at the University’s National Institute for Health Innovation, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.