Chippies should cut the number of holes in saltshakers to improve nation’s health

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Lashings of salt and vinegar are arguably what makes fish and chips Britain’s favourite national dish.

But public health experts suggest chippies should lead the way in making takeaways healthier – by reducing the number of holes in saltshakers.

Making small changes – such as smaller portions – could help to reduce the nation’s bulging waistline, a House of Lords Committee heard.

Amelia Lake, a professor in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University, said trials have proved popular, with most people not even noticing the salt reduction.

She said: ‘We need to think about what we do. These outlets are everywhere and most of the time, they’re ran by local people and it’s a local business.

Public health experts suggest chippies should lead the way in making takeaways healthier – by reducing the number of holes in saltshakers. Making small changes – such as smaller portions – could help to reduce the nation’s bulging waistline, a House of Lords Committee heard

Speaking at the Food, Diet and Obesity Committee, Amelia Lake, a professor in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University, said takeaways were ingrained into society and important to local communities. When asked what initiatives have been successful, she added: 'We worked with people who supplied the packaging and we worked with them to provide a lighter bite box for fish and chips, it reduced calories and lots of people liked that'

Speaking at the Food, Diet and Obesity Committee, Amelia Lake, a professor in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University, said takeaways were ingrained into society and important to local communities. When asked what initiatives have been successful, she added: ‘We worked with people who supplied the packaging and we worked with them to provide a lighter bite box for fish and chips, it reduced calories and lots of people liked that’

‘Those businesses are there and people like a takeaway.

‘But will they notice how many holes are in the saltshaker? I’m the one that does every time I go in, but, but other people don’t.’

Speaking at the Food, Diet and Obesity Committee, she said takeaways were ingrained into society and important to local communities.

As a result, lessening the negative impacts on health was about ‘working with what you have’, adding that businesses were not against changing behaviours.

When asked what initiatives have been successful, she added: ‘We worked with people who supplied the packaging and we worked with them to provide a lighter bite box for fish and chips, it reduced calories and lots of people liked that.

‘We looked at the number of holes in the saltshaker. Significantly changing the number of holes significantly reduced salt.’

Salt is a known cause of high blood pressure, responsible for thousands suffering or dying from a heart attack or stroke each year.

A programme to reduce salt in the nation’s diet saw the amount consumed fall by almost 20 per cent but this has crept back up since it effectively became voluntary.

Andrew Crook, President of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said the public is in love with salt, with many traditional chippies trying in vain to reduce consumption.

He said: ‘We don’t add salt unless customers want it and we get people saying ‘can I have a bit more’ if you try and reduce it.

Around two thirds of over-16s in England (64 per cent) are overweight, including tens of thousands who are morbidly obese. This is an 11 per cent rise on 1993, when 53 per cent were considered overweight. Experts blame sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. Source: Health Survey for England 2021

Around two thirds of over-16s in England (64 per cent) are overweight, including tens of thousands who are morbidly obese. This is an 11 per cent rise on 1993, when 53 per cent were considered overweight. Experts blame sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. Source: Health Survey for England 2021

‘I’ve got saltshakers in my shop with six holes whereas they had 10 or 12 before, but you tend to find people just stand there longer.’

Staff are trained not to add to children’s meals and only put it on adults’ portions when asked, he said.

‘For us, it’s about giving consumers the choice and it’s down to the government to educate them on why it’s bad for them rather than saying ‘no you can’t have it’.

It is not the time British fish and chips have been the target of a public health drive.

In 2010, the Food Standards Agency urged fryers to use bigger, thicker chips because they absorb less fat.

Sonia Pombo, of Action on Salt, said small reductions go a long way to reducing blood pressure.

She said: ‘This just shows how simple it can be to lower your salt whilst still enjoying your fish and chips.

‘There is no reason why initiatives like this shouldn’t also be extended to the rest of the hospitality sector, not just with saltshakers for customers, but for chefs in the kitchens, who are notorious for over-salting food.’

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

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