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FSA explores the role of portion sizes in our diet

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the conclusions of an academic workshop that considered the available evidence of the relationship between portion size and people's energy intakes, weight gain and diet. This is accompanied by a report looking at changes in the portion size of everyday foods since the early 1990s.

This early work found:

  • A wider range of portion sizes is now available, but there are few consistent trends within different food categories.
  • Larger portion size packs are available for many, often premium products, including luxury cookies, American muffins, luxury ice cream bars, sausages, premium crisps, and chocolate confectionery.
  • Smaller pack sizes are also available for many products (eg, chocolate confectionery, savoury snacks, soft drinks, ice cream cones and bars) but usually as part of multipacks from larger retailers.
  • The portion sizes of traditional and standard products, such as biscuits and cakes, have generally remained fairly constant, and only a few foods have increased in size, eg, individual ready meals.
  • Only limited data was available for takeaway foods, and this showed that some but not all food items have increased in size compared with the early 90s.

The academic workshop discussed which foods possible consumer advice and industry action on portion size might focus on, recommending that future work should cover:

  • Key foods that contribute to saturated fat intakes (including biscuits, buns, cakes, pastries, fruit pies, confectionery, dairy products and spreads, meat products and savoury snacks).
  • Single serve or impulse purchases of sweet and savoury snacks.
  • Sugary drinks and other beverages.

Corinne Vaughan, deputy head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said: "The evidence relating to portion size, energy intake and weight gain is complex and evolving. We will be discussing our next steps and what further actions are needed in this area more fully in the autumn with industry, public health and consumer groups.

"Future work in this area will need to be practical, and make a positive contribution to help people eat a more balanced diet."

Food Standards Agency