PORTIONS of food from ready meals to cake are up to twice as large as they were ten years ago, sparking concerns that supersize foods are harming the nation.
The study, by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) claims that portions of food sold by some of the leading supermarkets are “out of control.”
The BHF compared the portion sizes of 245 products sold in Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Morrison’s with portion sizes listed by the Food Standards Agency.
Ready meals had, on average, grown significantly: a shepherd’s pie meal is almost double the 210g serving recommended 20 years ago – while a chicken curry with rice is 53% bigger.
Now experts fear the supersize portions are fueling an obesity crisis and contributing to heart disease.
This week the BHF is calling for urgent action by the Scottish and Westminster government to combat ballooning portions.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF said: “We urgently need a government review of portion sizes in the UK.
“We are calling on supermarkets and manufacturers to take their share of responsibility for how much we eat.”
Individual meals such as macaroni cheese and spaghetti bolognese have expanded by 39% and 25% respectively, states the report.
Plain bagels are 24% larger, assuming an individual consumes one bagel a day – it is the equivalent extra weight gain of 5 1/2lb a year.
Crumpets and garlic bread are 20% to 30% bigger. The BHF found a half portion of pizza can be the same as a whole serving in 1993.
A plain pack of sweetmeal biscuits, on average, is 17% larger.
The findings threaten to undermine a new system of front-of-pack food labelling being introduced across the country.
A combination of colour coding and nutritional information based on a 100g serving will show how much fat, salt and sugar and how many calories are in each product.
However, confusion around portion sizes means consumers are still likely to eat far more than is good for them.
Of 140 people surveyed by the BHF, two-thirds said the government and food industry should be doing more to make it easier for people to understand portion sizes.
The British Retail Consortium, responding on behalf of Asda and Tesco, said the industry had made “huge efforts” to reduce portion sizes but questioned the merits of going further.
“There’s no point making portions so small people buy two,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability.
Charlie Parker, Sainsbury’s nutritionist, challenged the findings of the BHF report.
“Sainsbury’s individual lasagne was a 510g portion in 1998 and is now 400g – quite the reverse to the points being made in the BHF report.”
A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “We are currently talking to the food industry, including retail manufacture and catering businesses in Scotland about our ideas to support more people to make healthy eating choices.
“Portion size, particularly in relation to foods high in salt, fat and sugar, is one aspect we are discussing.
“We plan to finalise and launch our final commitments for the food industry early 2014.”
Health campaigners warn bigger servings have contributed to chronic health problems such as heart disease, which kills about 16,000 people in Britain each year.
It is also blamed for the obesity epidemic with 63% of adults and around a third of children and young people overweight or obese.