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Department of Health Calorie Poll

A public opinion poll on behalf of the Department of Health.

Date Published: 04 Sep 2011

Categories: Business | Consumer | Food and Beverage | Health | Public and communities | UK



We’ve all done it. Stood in our favourite sandwich shop or restaurant, scouring the menu or rows upon rows of freshly made sandwiches, salads, sushi boxes, baguettes and soups trying to work out which would be the least calorific and healthier option.

Do we opt for the tempting pizza slice or maybe the jacket potato with cheddar cheese and salad? Or would a sandwich of poached salmon with watercress and dill mayo be a healthier option? Maybe, just maybe, we should avoid cheese and creamy salad dressings all together and opt for a sushi box with a fruit compote yoghurt pot to fill us up?

If this feels like a typical lunchtime scenario for you, then you are not alone.

In a recent Department of Health survey of over 1,700 consumers across England, over half (52%) of those surveyed said that they had absolutely no idea how many calories were in some popular foods eaten out of the home.
Those who believed that they knew the calorie content of these foods also discovered that actually, they had greatly underestimated the calorie content of popular breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner meals:

• On average consumers across the country believed that a mid-morning snack of a medium skimmed latte and a blueberry muffin contained 382 calories in total - compared to a typical figure of 614 calories.
• Similarly, consumers believed  that a café lunch of a club sandwich, fries and a soft drink would come in at 722 calories, when in fact it tends to come in  much higher at 1052 calories – over half of a woman’s recommended daily allowance.
• Consumers also underestimated a dinner of lasagne with a side salad and dressing. This comes in around 885 calories - whereas those surveyed believed it to be less at around 683 calories.

The findings come against a backdrop of the UK having the highest obesity rates in Europe and diet related illnesses costing the NHS £6 billion each year.

But help is at hand. With one in six meals eaten outside of the home, the Department of Health is now calling on  restaurants, pubs, cafes, fast food outlets and food retailers across the country to sign up to its Out of Home Calorie Labelling Pledge. This asks businesses to display calorie labelling on menus and menu boards, for standardised food and drink, so that consumers can make healthier choices.

So far, thirty-four food organisations have already signed up to the pledge, including major food organisations such as McDonald’s, Wimpy, KFC, Harvester and Pizza Hut – to name just a few. This means that consumers in these restaurants will now be able to clearly see how many calories are in their favourite burger, pizza, salad or muffin by glancing at a menu or menu board.

ComRes interviewed 1734 English adults online between 24th and 25th August 201. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all English adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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