Concern over children's crisp-eating

HALF of children in East Anglia are “drinking” almost five litres of cooking oil every year due to their crisp-eating habits, a shock new survey has found.

By Jonathan Barnes

HALF of children in East Anglia are “drinking” almost five litres of cooking oil every year due to their crisp-eating habits, a shock new survey has found.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said 50% of eight to 15-year-olds in the region were eating at least one packet of crisps a day.

It also revealed one in four admitted to getting through two or more packets every day - amounting to at least nine litres a year.


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The alarming figures are released today as the BHF launches its Food4Thought campaign to expose the hidden salt, fat and sugar in common foods.

It aims to demonstrate to children the damage they could be doing to their health with their eating habits.

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The message is being underlined with a hard-hitting poster showing a young girl drinking from a bottle of cooking oil.

The East Anglian Daily Times is also currently running a campaign - The Obesity Timebomb - to raise awareness and increase understanding of childhood obesity.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF, said: “We believe having a daily dose of such a high-fat, nutritionally poor product is a threat to children's long-term health.

“Daily unhealthy snacking is a worrying habit. Rising rates of childhood obesity and causes of Type 2 diabetes paint a particularly grim picture for the future.

“This campaign is about challenging our children, alerting them to what's lurking in their snacks, takeaways and ready meals. It's about making these foods the exception rather than the rule.”

Teaching resources in the shape of over-sized burger boxes will be sent to hundreds of schools across the region to help teachers educate pupils on the perils of unhealthy eating

Norman Foster, of Suffolk East PCTs' public health team, backed the initiative and said: “What we need to be doing is giving healthy options to parents, carers and the children themselves and make them aware of the foods they can have in moderation, what foods are good and what foods are not so good.

“Our message is that it is a lifestyle issue for young people to balance the amount they are eating with the amount of exercise they take.”

Dr John Cormack, Essex spokesman for the British Medical Association, said even with changes to the oil in crisps, the calories remained high as well as salt levels causing problems.

“The main problem from this intake of oil is obesity and we are seeing more and more of it which makes you wonder why parents give their kids crisps.

“But one of the difficulties is when you give them healthy things like fruit, they are not terribly keen on eating it so the parents get despondent.

“Children are not burning off the calories as they did in the past when they were out and about, running about more, rather than being in front of the television or playing on a computer.”

As part of the Food4Thought campaign, the BHF is calling for a ban on the marketing of junk food products to children and cooking skills to be a compulsory part of schooling across the UK.

Children, parents and teachers can find out more about the campaign by visiting its website at www.bhf.org.uk/food

FACTFILE

In a typical 35g of crisps there is about two teaspoons of oil and in a larger 50g pack this goes up to three-and-a-half teaspoons.

Figures from a new Mintel report show that UK snackers eat their way through a tonne of crisps every three minutes - enough to fill a telephone box every 43 seconds.

According to an official survey earlier this year, almost three-quarters of mothers feed their children ready meals or takeaways more than three times a week.

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