US-style mega-meal deals 'are making Britons fatter'

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Food manufacturers that market American-style mega-meals and jumbo portions are to blame for Britain's obesity epidemic, a conference was told yesterday.

Food manufacturers that market American-style mega-meals and jumbo portions are to blame for Britain's obesity epidemic, a conference was told yesterday.

Companies in the UK could be sued by obese people claiming aggressive marketing of extra-large food portions has led to weight gain and health problems. Obesity experts and nutritionists urged consumers to boycott fast-food mega-meals and supersized value packs of crisps, biscuits and ready meals to reverse the increasing weight of the average Briton. One in five people is overweight or obese, a figure that has tripled in the past 20 years.

In America, two thirds of people are clinically too heavy, and several legal class actions are pending against fast-food companies for promoting jumbo-sized burgers and chips.

At a conference yesterday, the World Cancer Research Fund warned that Britain was following the American trend for extra-large food portions.

Professor Phil James, the British chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce, said: "The whole of Britain is getting fatter, and it is getting fatter, faster. We have been ignoring this problem but we really need to sit up and take notice now, because this is affecting our health and that of our children. We now have clear evidence that excess weight gain is linked to a range of cancers and other health problems. The food industry needs to see they are a part of this; we need to have better labelling and encourage people not buy these extra-large portions."

Professor James pointed to products, including extra-large Mars bars, Burger King meals and lunchtime "meal deals", which promote triple-decker sandwiches with crisps and fizzy drinks, as culprits.

Research in the US has shown that in the past 20 years the size of a standard hamburger has increased by 112 per cent and bagels by 195 per cent. Pasta servings are 480 per cent bigger and cookies 700 per cent larger. Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "Food and drink manufacturers provide many of our favourite products in a wide variety of sizes and styles to suit consumers' varied nutritional needs and tastes. This widens people's choices for building a healthy, balanced diet.

"Larger packs are not always consumed by one person or at one session and parents can now often choose mini- products and multipacks."

He added: "The industry recognises it has a part to play to combat obesity and works with the rest of the food chain, government and educators to help people learn more about food and nutrition."

HOW THE PORTIONS COMPARE

How standard and supersize portions compare in Britain.

Maltesers: a 37g standard pack contains 179 calories but a 230g value pack contains 1,113 calories

M&Ms: the 45g standard packet has 230 calories; but a 250g extra large packet has 1,262 calories

Walkers Crisps: the standard 34.5g packet has 183 calories; the big-eat pack has 292.

KitKat: normal 48g bar has 243 calories; but the chunky version weighs 60.5g and has 403 calories

Mars Bar: standard bar is 62.5g with 281 calories; the extra large size is 85g and has 382 calories

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