Combating obesity by shrinking fish and chips portion sizes from suppliers

  • Goffe L & al.
  • BMJ Open
  • 6 Feb 2019

  • curated by Antara Ghosh
  • UK Medical News
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Takeaways and fast food meals deliver excessive energies, partly attributed to large portion sizes. A recent survey pointed towards add up to a hefty 1658 calorie meal by deep-fried battered fish and chips, which could amount to about 80% of a woman's and 70% of man's recommended total daily calorie intake. For those who regularly use takeaways, smaller portions meals might help to keep their weight under control.

A research team from University of Newcastle, Durham, Teeside and Cambridge University suggested that offering a smaller portion meal of Fish & Chip, using standardised boxes to control portion size, without causing problems for shops or upsetting customers was possible. This, in turn, may cut down on excess packaging, reduce food waste and help combat obesity. These findings were published in the journal, BMJ Open.

Researchers approached Henry Colbeck Limited, an independent specialist Fish & Chip shops wholesaler, supplying across northern England and Scotland. An information event was set up that focussed on how providing smaller meal options could encourage more customers and reduce food costs. Thirty-one shops were invited to the event, of which 12 participated in the study. Shop owners and managers were introduced to new boxes with room for only smaller portions of fish and chips branded as ’Lite-BITE’ meals. Large posters promoted the availability of smaller size meals. Shop owners, managers and the wholesaler staff involved in the project were interviewed to understand their experiences and views of the intervention.

Post-intervention, sales of smaller portion sizes increased from 14.2 to 21.2% of meals sold. Amongst the customers who were surveyed, 72% were aware that smaller portion meals were available; however, only 20% purchased them. Amongst the customers who had not tried smaller portion meals previously, 46% said they would be interested in trying them in the future. In the year 2017, the wholesaler reported sales of 552,300 ‘Lite-BITE’ boxes to 253 fish and chip shops.

Researchers suggest that working with takeaway suppliers might be a good way to develop and roll out such ideas in future. Lead author, Dr Louis Goffe commented, "We focused on coming up with a solution which provides a healthier meal option but equally importantly works for the fish and chip shop owners. The sales show that there is a demand for smaller portion meals".