High street food chains’ efforts to get customers to ‘go large’ threatens an average weight gain of as much as five pounds a year, it is claimed.
Health experts warn today that pressure from fast food chains, coffee shops and others to buy bigger portions and snack on high calorie foods is feeding obesity.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said this ‘upselling’ means that every week one in three people with upgrade to a large meal in a fast food outlet.
High street food chains’ efforts to get customers to ‘go large’ threatens an average weight gain of as much as five pounds a year, it is claimed
A similar proportion will buy a larger coffee than intended and buy chocolate at the till in petrol stations and newsagents
Burger King is currently promoting its calorific Long Chilli Cheese Burger and also offers a Fiery BBQ XL Burger.
The XL Burger comes in at 1,050 calories, which is more than half an adult woman should eat for an entire day.
It also has 28g of saturated fat, which well over the maximum figure recommended for an adult for entire day of 20g.
At KFC the ‘Big Daddy’ box meal for one person, which includes a fried chicken burger, large fries, a side dish and large drink, comes in at 1,430 calories.
And McDonald’s is offering larger burgers under its new, more upmarket, Signature Collection as well as its supersize ‘Big Tasty’ products.
The RSPH says similar triggers to indulge are used by coffee shop chains to sell bigger servings of hot drinks, some of which are laden with sugary syrups and toppings.
And the policy of petrol stations and newsagents to put chocolates and sweets at the tills is encouraging consumption of sugary snacks.
‘Young people aged 18-24 are the most likely to experience upselling, with the research showing they consume 750 extra calories per week as a result’, the report by Oxford University found
The organisation’s report, ‘Size Matters’, which includes a survey of 2,055 UK adults, shows that consumers face an average of 106 verbal pushes towards unhealthy choices each year as they are asked whether they would like to upgrade to larger meals and drinks, add high calorie toppings or sides to their order or take advantage of special offers on unhealthy food and drink.
It said: ‘The drip-drip effect of being upsold to an average of 106 times per year leads us to consume 17,000 extra calories, potentially gaining 5lbs (2.3kg) over 12 months.
‘Young people aged 18-24 are the most likely to experience upselling, with the research showing they consume 750 extra calories per week as a result, potentially gaining 11lbs (5kg) in a year.’
The report said businesses incentivise the ‘go large’ options by promoting them as good value because they only cost a little bit more.
‘People who take an upsell will generally spend around 17per cent more money but receive 55per cent calories,’ it said.
The RSPH and sponsors of the study, Slimming World, are calling for health professionals to warn patients not to be tempted by the ‘go large’ offers. They are also calling for businesses that promote healthy choices to be rewarded with reductions in their business rates.
Businesses would quality if they provide clear nutrition information and do not train staff, or offer them bonuses, to push unhealthy, high-calorie food and drink.
Chief executive of the RSPH, Shirley Cramer, said: ‘Obesity is the public health challenge of our generation and if not addressed urgently could tip over the point of no return. ‘Incentivising businesses to help keep their customers healthy by offering reduced business rates could be a positive step to help reduce the burden placed on our health care system by obesity-related illness. It also gives businesses the opportunity to step up to the plate and take their fair share of responsibility for the public’s health and wellbeing.
‘Almost everyone can relate to the feeling of being pressured into buying extra calories through upselling. Our latest report shows the extent to which these extra calories can really add up, often without us noticing.
‘We hope that through this work the public can become more aware of how businesses target them with upselling and help people to maintain a healthy weight.’
Caroline Cerny, of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: ‘It’s all too easy to eat more than we need when we are encouraged to buy larger sizes, add unhealthy extras or take advantage of special offers when it comes to unhealthy food and drink.
‘There is clear evidence that marketing techniques persuade us to eat and drink more of the wrong types of food and this is driving the obesity epidemic. The food industry can play a vital role by helping to make healthier choices the easy choice and creating a healthier food environment for us all.’