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Wednesday 21 August 2019

How we've become a nation that spends ?480m a year on junk food

Aideen SheehanFood Correspondent

IRELAND has become a fast-food nation with more takeaways and junk food outlets than post offices or churches.

New figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the country is dotted with thousands of fast-food outlets and their numbers are increasing all the time.

We totted up over 2,000 takeaways - and you could probably add on at least 1,000 more for the remaining 12 counties wherethe data wasn't readily available.

In Dublin and its commuter zone alone, there are 1,094 takeaways, ranging from Chinese to chippers to sandwich bars, according to figures registered with the Health Service Executiveto enable food safetyinspections.

SOARING OBESITY

This figure doesn't even include the fast-food joints like McDonald's and Burger King, which are classified as restaurants because customers can sit down to eat.

The figures are astonishing and show why there is no doubt about the connection between soaring obesity rates and the amount of fast food we eat, said Aveen Bannon, a Nutritionistwith the Dublin Nutrition Centre.

"The bottom line is you should not eat fast food such as burgers or Chinese takeaways more than twice a month. It's nearly always high in fat and salt content and low in fresh fruit and vegetables," she said.

While it might seem hopeless to try and stop the trend, consumers were becoming more health conscious and savvy business people could capitalise on this by offering healthier fast food such as sushi, Ms Bannon said.

We spend about ?480m a year on takeaway food, according to market analysts Mintel, and the figure has soared in the past five years, with ethnic food leading the way.

Mintel notes that Chinese food has become our top choice, outperforming burger bars and chippers in the popularity stakes - even though it doesn't go in for any brand advertising.

Dashboard dining is also on the up - the latest trend is for hot fast food whenever you stop for petrol.

Irish chain Supermac's has pinpointed this as the big new growth area to swell its tally of 65 outlets and is opening up mini burger joints at garage forecourts and convenience stores around the country.

Campaigners failed last week in a bid to have planning authorities consider the health impact of allowing more fast food restaurants open up, when An Bord Pleanala gave the green light to McDonald's to open up in Ennis.

However, Green Party Cllr Brian Meaney who objected unsuccessfully to the new restaurant renewed his call for the Government to make health issues part of the planning process.

However, McDonald's point to their salad and fruit options and are launching a new nutritional information campaign.

Mintel has noted that fast-food outlets which do not heed the Government health warning will lose out on retail sales in the long run.

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