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19 October 2016, 06:20
Scotland's food body has called for action from the catering industry to help tackle obesity after a new report revealed children have been consuming more burgers, chips and cola from fast-food outlets in recent years.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) wants the sector to introduce measures to help combat high fat, salt and sugar in food and drink, including changing recipes, smaller portions, calorie labelling, improving children's options and revising marketing and advertising.
Its latest report shows that, in Scotland, visits to one particular fast-food chain "grew rapidly'' between 2014 and 2015.
A single fast-food chain - unnamed in the report - was also found to be the key provider of kids' meals, accounting for 36.9% of meals specifically targeted at children provided out of the home to those aged 0-12 years.
FSS said the findings highlight the need for urgent steps to improve food and drink eaten outside the home for both adults and children in Scotland given that obesity levels are projected to reach 40% by 2030.
The paper shows that eating out increased overall between 2012 and 2015, but is skewed towards more unhealthy options such as fast food and takeaways.
Scots visited "quick service restaurants'' more often last year than they did in 2012, with fish and chips and burger outlets seeing the strongest rise in visits.
The report also indicates less healthy food was more likely to be consumed by children in Scotland, compared to what is consumed by adults in Scotland and children in the rest of Great Britain.
FSS chief executive Geoff Ogle said: "As well as encouraging individuals to choose healthier options when eating out, it is vital that businesses also play their part, through reformulation of products to reduce calories, fats, sugars and salt, reductions in portion sizes and less promotion of products that are high in fat, sugar and salt.
"Otherwise, 40% obesity levels in Scotland is going to be a certainty.
"We are pleased with the increased positive engagement between Food Standards Scotland and the retail and manufacturing sectors over the last six months, and I now look forward to further engagement with providers of food and drink eaten outside of the home.''
He added: "Collectively, individuals, government and industry have to take responsibility and agree that action is essential and the debate needs to move to getting on with delivering effective solutions.
"Whether it's retail or out of home, the cumulative impact is that we are buying and consuming too many unhealthy options, and it's bad for our health.''