Not-so-super sized: sweet makers say big bars must bite the dust

Grab your sack-sized packet of crisps and yard of chocolate while stocks last: sweet portions are about to be slimmed down. Food manufacturers have responded to concerns about the growing girth of the average Briton by pledging to downsize their products.

King-sized chocolate bars and extra-large snacks are to be scrapped by some of the country's biggest food manufacturers. The confectionery giant, Cadbury Trebor Bassett, is among the firms that have agreed to phase out "super-sized" portions.

Industry insiders said the move was a victory in the battle to make manufacturers more responsible for the marketing of their products. Super-sizing has become one of the most controversial issues in the debate between the food industry and health campaigners over how to tackle soaring rates of obesity and weight problems.

Manufacturers had said their extra-large versions were designed to be shared or eaten over time, rather than consumed in a single sitting by one person. But health experts say increasing portion sizes have added to the UK's growing weight problem. Three quarters of the adult population is now classed as overweight and one in five is clinically obese. One in 10 six-year-olds is obese, rising to one in five at the age of 15, a report by a House of Commons select committee has shown.

The agreement on super-sizing came after bosses from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents manufacturers, met John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health and Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, last week. Ministers are to set out their proposals for tackling obesity by the end of the year, and the food industry has been under increasing pressure to show it is willing to take action.

The FDF publishes its Food And Health Manifesto today, which pledges "to explore new approaches for individual portion sizes to help reduce over-consumption". The FDF cannot force members to stop super-sizing, but the manifesto includes commitments from individual companies on sizes.

Cadbury Trebor Bassett is to abandon King-sizes in the second quarter of 2005. The company is the world's third-largest soft drinks company as well as producing Dairy Milk and other confectionery. Kraft Foods said it was developing "single-serving" versions of its cheese and snacks and reducing portion sizes. Nestlé said it was also switching its focus to bite-size versions, such as mini Rolos and KitKat Kubes.

Am FDF spokeswoman said: "This is the industry setting down a marker and saying people cannot accuse us of not being at the table in the debate over obesity. This is the biggest milestone in the food and health debate since the health select committee report this year. We hope that this will debunk the myth that food manufacturers are not doing anything to tackle the obesity problem, and cannot contribute to the debate."

She added: "Our members are committed to reducing over-consumption. Some companies are going to be phasing out larger portions and others are looking at ways of more responsible packaging and marketing."

A 100g, king-size Snickers chocolate bar has more calories than a meal of sirloin steak and potatoes, the select committee report said.

McDonald's has also capitulated to consumer demand and pledged to phase out super-sized meals from all its British stores by next year. The film Super Size Me, in which Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's meals for a month, has highlighted the perils of the super-size culture. He gained 25lb and suffered depression and liver problems. McDonald's sales shot up this year after it introduced healthier products and stopped asking customers if they wanted to "go large".

The FDF manifesto has also pledged action in six other "key areas", including labelling of products and responsible advertising. Manufacturers will also remove vending machines from primary schools to improve nutrition. David Hinchliffe, chairman of the select committee, said: "The rise of the super-snack gave us serious cause for concern."

MONSTER MUNCH

Big Eat:

Weight: 40g

Calories: 196

Fat content: 10g

Regular size:

Weight: 25g

Calories: 124

Fat content: 6.3g

* COCA-COLA

Share size:

Size: 1.25 litres

Calories: 537

Fat content: 0

Regular bottle:

Size: 500 ml

Calories: 215

Fat content: 0

* SNICKERS

Big One:

Weight: 100g

Calories: 501

Fat content: 28.1g

Regular:

Weight: 64.5g

Calories: 323

Fat content: 18.1g

* WALKERS CRISPS:

Big eat:

Weight: 55g

Calories: 292

Fat content: 18.7g

Regular:

Weight: 28g

Calories: 183

Fat content: 11.7g

Comments