I’m sure the Food Standards Agency, along with the Department of Health, would like to sweep this report under the carpet. The ramifications for the industry are significant, to say the least. These calorie counts have been used as the basis for labelling systems such as Traffic Lights and Guideline Daily Amounts; for the Nutrient Profiling Model; not to mention the dietary advice of doctors, dieticians and nutritionists. Up the amount of calories available, and a lot of reds will turn to amber; and ambers to green. The only advice that doesn’t change is the Government’s position on salt.
But the message this miscalculation sends out to the public is deeply dangerous. Learning of this error, a consumer could all too easily take the revised calculations as an invitation to eat an extra 300-400 calories per day, even though many are clearly exceeding the revised levels already.
Even in cases where, as a result of this calorie count cockup, the consumer has been undernourished, there is also the danger it encourages them to devour more ‘unhealthy calories’: in other words, food where there are few, positive nutritional benefits to accompany the additional fat or sugar. But that’s a fault all the labelling systems are guilty of, already.
The truth is most of us don’t know how many calories we consume every day. And this difficulty (made no easier by the FSA’s obsession with a 100g benchmark, as opposed to portions) is one reason why obesity remains a considerable problem. Instead of brushing the calorie count issue under the carpet, the FSA/DH should move on – and work more closely with Weight Watchers, and its ilk, to tone the nation’s lard.
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