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Saturday 20 September 2014

Pasta is king of the carbs, but spud still rules here

Aideen Sheehan and Jade Nolan

Published 20/06/2011 | 05:00

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PASTA is now the world's favourite food -- but in Ireland the humble spud still reigns supreme.

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A new survey by Oxfam shows pasta rules the roost internationally, taking over from meat, rice and pizza as the most popular dish.

But Irish consumption of pasta is bottom of the international league, with potatoes still our carbohydrate of choice.

In fact we eat, on average, just 1kg of pasta each a year, according to consumption data from the Association of Pasta Manufacturers of the European Union (UNAFPA).

This is in marked contrast to Italians who, unsurprisingly, lead the way worldwide, munching 28kg of pasta a year.

Meanwhile, Americans eat 9kg of pasta and British people eat more than twice as much as we do.

Irish consumption of pasta was the lowest out of 47 countries monitored.

However, it's a different story when it comes to potatoes -- we manage to put away a whopping 45kg of them each a year.

The Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance found that potatoes were still a crucial part of the Irish diet, consumed by over 93pc of the adult population regardless of age or gender.

Daniel McCartney, a lecturer in human nutrition at DIT, believes our love affair with the potato is down to "cultural legacy" from our ancestors' diets.

"There has been evolving trends in the diets of Irish people in the last 20 years, but it's clear to see the potato is still the most popular food in Ireland," he said.

"The majority of dinners cooked each night in Ireland are potato-based, but I think in the next 10 years or so we will see more and more people varying their diets for one reason or another."

We also eat 42kg of bread each year.

"The figures show the high levels of carbohydrates and fats in the typical Irish diet," Mr McCartney said.

"Recent surveys of Irish dietary habits show that, as a nation, we consume too much fat, salt and sugar, and we're lacking in a lot of vitamins present in fresh fruit and vegetables.

"People need to be made aware of the ingredients and content in their food in order for the Irish diet to be recognised as healthy and diverse."

Growing

While agreeing that potato consumption was "off the Richter scale in Ireland", a spokesperson for Dolmio, which makes pasta sauces, said pasta consumption had been growing enormously here.

"A recent piece of market research we carried out showed that three out of the top 10 hot meals which people eat are pasta-based -- that's spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne and other pasta meals," she said.

The Oxfam survey of food preferences among 16,000 people in 17 countries shows the spread of western tastes.

Pasta is the favourite choice of 9pc of those surveyed, followed by meat (6pc), rice (5pc), pizza (5pc), chicken (5pc), fish (4pc), vegetables (3pc), Chinese food (2pc), Italian food (2pc) and Mexican food (2pc).

Pasta sales worldwide are now worth more than €11bn a year, but in Ireland we spend some €150m annually on potatoes, according to Bord Bia.

Irish Independent

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