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Could chip shop changes help tackle obesity?

08 February 2019 08:46

Delicious fish and Chips take away meal enjoyed on the beach

Delicious fish and Chips take away meal enjoyed on the beach

Lovers of traditional fish and chips are embracing a more health-conscious version of their favourite food, a new study suggests.

Led by researchers from Newcastle University, the study looked at whether takeaway owners and diners could see the benefits of shrinking their meal sizes.

In partnership with fish and chip shop supplier Henry Colbeck, the study tested the popularity of the company's "Lite-BITE" box designed for a smaller meal of around 600 calories.

After reviewing sales and conducting interviews, researchers found customers were satisfied with the Lite-BITE box's smaller-than-usual portions sizes, which fall within Government nutritional guidelines.

Excessive meal size

A spokeswoman for Henry Colbeck explained how the boxes are now used in more than 250 fish and chip shops, prompting sales of more than 700,000 boxes in the last year.

A total of 46 people filled in questionnaires about their experience, of which 20 per cent said they had purchased the smaller-portion meals instead of the larger portions, with 46 per cent of those who had not chosen the smaller portions saying they would be interested in trying them in future.

As part of the study, participating takeaway owners were given a three-hour session highlighting the issues associated with excessive meal sizes, as well as customers' desire to be more health conscious.

They were also encouraged to use box packaging to control portions, and to actively promote smaller meals.

Healthier option

Louis Goffe, the report's lead author and a research associate for Newcastle University, said: "I love fish and chips and this research aims to find a way that we can have our fish and chip treat - but less of it.

"We focussed 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 and we hope this will act as a template for others in the fast-food sector to follow."

The findings, published in BMJ Open by researchers from Fuse - The Centre for Translational Research involving Newcastle, Durham and Cambridge Universities - explain how the success of the Lite-BITE boxes reflects the "longer-term viability" of portion control.

Mr Goffe added: "Public health teams have found it difficult to engage with takeaway owners, but we discovered that wholesale suppliers in fish and chip shops are trusted by owners and offer a way to influence portion size.

"We found that owners and customers welcomed the scheme, demonstrating that it is feasible to work collaboratively with industry in this sector to promote healthier takeaway food."

The report added that further work is needed to be done to identify other areas of the takeaway sector that could be positively influenced by this approach.

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