Cancer Research UK
New figures reveal that at least 79 million ready meals and 22 million fast-food and takeaway meals are eaten weekly by adults in the UK, according to estimates in a new report by Cancer Research UK.
These findings highlight the need for the food industry to cut the amount of calories, sugar and fat in convenience foods to reduce the unhealthy effects of the UK’s takeaway and ready meal culture.
The report, based on a YouGov survey found that young adults aged 18-24 are more likely to rely on convenience meals, and are seven times more likely to indulge in fast food and takeaways at least once a week compared to the over 65s.
The report also found that men were more likely than women to eat convenience food rather than make meals at home.
It’s estimated that adults in England consume an extra 200-300 calories every day, which is around the same calorie content as two packets of salted crisps.
Regularly consuming fast food and ready meals, which tend to have a high calorie content and higher levels of fat and sugar, increases the risk of weight gain and obesity.
Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, and is linked to thirteen types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “These figures show that ‘grab and go’ foods and a growing appetite for takeaways and ready meals are helping to propel us towards an epidemic of larger waistlines and increased cancer risk.
“The whole food industry needs to step up and commit to working with government to cut the amount of fat and sugar in our food. This would make it that bit easier for all of us to become healthier and reduce our cancer risk.”
Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) (2011) Dietary Reference Values for Energy.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3293 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between Wednesday 24th February and Tuesday 8th March 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
The results from the survey were then projected onto the adult UK population of 51,339,161 people (using 2015 figures from the Office for National Statistics). The following are the definitions of the different convenience foods included in the survey:
Takeaways are foods eaten from fast food outlets and local takeaway places. Ready meals include microwave meals and store bought pizza, chips and burgers eaten at home.
When asked in the survey how often they eat ready meals, 55.6% of men said once a week or more compared to 44.4% of females. When asked how often they eat takeaways, 19.3% of men in the survey said once a week or more compared to 12.9% of females.
On average, there are 132 calories in a 1 bag serving of salted crisps (25g).
Last year the Government announced a sugar reduction programme to help the public achieve the recommended sugar guidelines. By 2020 the Government hope to reduce sugar by 20% across a range of food categories.