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Thursday 21 September 2017

We need to know our fast food calorie count, says expert

THE CAMPAIGN to force fast-food outlets to display calories in Ireland has stepped up a notch, led by Operation Transformation's Professor Donal O'Shea.

The consultant endocrinologist and head of weight management clinic at St Colmcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, has been urging the Government to introduce legislation for calorie posting.

In the meantime, the Count Me In campaign wants to see the likes of McDonald's, Burger King and Starbucks display the nutritional values of their food in all of their outlets Ireland.

It is now law in America, but there is no obligation on the chains to do the same here.

Starbucks customer Patrick Mooney carried out his own campaign against the coffee giant. He posted comments on the cafe company's Facebook page but said they were removed and so he boycotted the company.

The result was a meeting with the management which ultimately led to calories being displayed in Ireland.

Prof O'Shea praised the actions of one customer -- he launched the movement 12 months ago.

It resulted in Dr James Reilly writing to US fast food restaurants based here to ask them to introduce the model of displaying calories which is already in place in America.

But on last night's episode on RTE, Prof O'Shea was disappointed that although McDonald's in Newry now display calories, 20km away in Dundalk they are not shown.

Prof O'Shea urges people to reconsider healthy eating choices and to increase their activity levels. But he is not completely opposed to occasional visits to fast-food outlets. "The calorie intake of Irish people today is broadly the same as 20 years ago, but activity levels have dropped off," he said. "The problem is people are not going in every once in a while, they are going in regularly and they are not balancing this with activity."

Dr Dan McCartney, from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, has praised any restaurant which voluntarily promotes healthy eating. "It's a pragmatic point of view if these fast food outlets are willing to implement these changes without legislation," he said. "Any way we have of informing consumers about the risks they take in consuming high fat foods is to be welcomed."

He added a combination of voluntary participation by fast food outlets, legislative regulation and a change in consumers' habits, it would be a great step towards improving the health of the nation.

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