Anti-obesity guidance criticised

Preston and Leyland Citizen: The Government was criticised for apparently advising restaurants how to cut portion sizes, for instance in pizzas, to help fight obesity without cutting prices The Government was criticised for apparently advising restaurants how to cut portion sizes, for instance in pizzas, to help fight obesity without cutting prices

The Government has been criticised for apparently advising restaurants how to cut portion sizes to help fight obesity - without cutting their prices.

Stopping free poppadoms in curry restaurants, serving take-aways in smaller containers and making smaller pizzas are among ideas available online from the Department of Health's Responsibility Deal programme.

The voluntary scheme advises restaurants on how to make the food and drink they serve less fattening, with o ne tip for pizzeria owners saying: "Thinner bases - bigger profits!"

Last week chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies used her annual report on the state of the nation's health to say too many people - and parents - may be ignoring the growing problem of obesity.

Ranjit Mathrani, who runs the Masala World chain of restaurants, told the Mail On Sunday he supported drives to reduce obesity.

But he added: "The idea of cutting portion sizes and charging the same is unethical.

"It is unethical and disreputable and likely to backfire because it is encouraging restaurants to pull a fast one over customers."

The advice is contained within several documents on the Responsibility Deal website.

It includes:

:: "Try not to overfill or compress food into containers. Or try using a slightly smaller container for takeaway dishes. Slightly smaller portion sizes will still be satisfying and will save you money!"

:: "Don't serve poppadoms free of charge as these can add a lot of fat and calories to a meal."

:: "Reduce your pizza width by an inch (2.5cms). You will save money by using less dough and fewer toppings.

:: "Thinner (pizza) bases - bigger profits! Make your standard pizza base thinner or add a thin base option to your menu. Using less dough will save calories and money. A thinner base can mean you save on toppings too."

:: "Add or increase the amount of vegetables, lentils or beans in dishes like soups, stews and rice. They are cheaper than meat and fish so could save you money!"

Last week Dame Sally warned obesity has become too normal in society and a "sugar tax" may be necessary in the future.

Dame Sally said many people did not recognise they had a weight problem, with data showing that 52% of overweight men and 30% of overweight women think they are about the right weight.

Some 11% of obese men and 6% of obese women think the same, while 77% of parents of overweight children do not recognise their child is heavier than they should be.

A Department of Health spokeswoman defended the guidance.

She said: "Research shows that overall we are eating more than we should, so controlling portion sizes and reformulating to use less fat, salt and sugar is an essential part of the Responsibility Deal.

"While doctors and health campaigners have called for work to reduce salt and portion sizes, many small businesses don't make the right changes - these tips are designed to help them serve healthier food to their customers.

"This is only a part of our efforts to encourage healthier diet through the Responsibility Deal in general, as well as through Change4Life campaigns, such as Smart Swaps.

"The real cost we are trying to avoid is cost of poor diet and obesity to the individual, NHS and society and we are already leading the world in reducing salt levels in food."

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