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Health Authorities Ignoring Impact of “Eating Out”

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Health authorities are missing out on an opportunity to positively impact the diet of many individuals who consistently eat out at work, in restaurants, and from food stalls.

There are few policies in place to encourage the consumption of meal choices outside the home that are both affordable and healthy according to Carl Lachat, a researcher from the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine and Ghent University,. Lachat has stated that he would like to see more accountability across the industry.

He has noted that half the countries in Europe lack regulations for caterers regarding portion size, calories, and nutrition, and there is little follow-up from various government agencies. There also appears to be more of an emphasis on food labelling, rather than the healthiness and composition of the meals themselves.

Lachat and his colleagues completed a worldwide review regarding food offered by restaurants, canteens, caterers, and other commercial food providers. They discovered that food eaten outside the home contains more fat and salt, and fewer vitamins, fruits, and vegetables. This is especially concerning when one considers how many people are eating out on a daily basis.

According to Lachat, one third of the population of Belgium aged 15 years or older obtain more than a quarter of their energy intake from meals eaten out. This number is even higher in other countries. Lachat would like to see a greater emphasis on healthy food choices in order to improve public health, decrease obesity and reduce the serious medical effects of overeating such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The researchers also looked into the technical support necessary for caterers and restaurants to deliver healthy meal choices. They determined that it was especially important to include small businesses as well as large industry in the plan, and to balance commercial interests against improved quality and healthiness of food and meals eaten outside of the home.

Source: Institute of Tropical Medicine