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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK


Britain's love affair with burgers

More people in Britain are succumbing to the lure of burgers, pizza and fried chicken than anywhere else in Europe, according to a survey.

Nutritionists say the figures are worrying and warn that while the odd burger is not harmful a fat-soaked diet can increase the chance of heart disease.

The Mintel report says people spend £2.7bn on fast food in the UK, and says this figure does not even include the amount spent on fish and chips.

[ image: Fish and chips: The UK favourite was left out of the survey]
Fish and chips: The UK favourite was left out of the survey
Of the four other European countries surveyed, only Germany comes close, chomping its way through an estimated £2bn of quick-fix foods.

The baguette still proves popular in France, which forks out a mere £1.6bn on fast food, while Spain and Italy lag behind on £700m and £310m respectively.

Pizzerias excluded

The BBC's Virginia Eastman: "On average 10 times more pizza is eaten here than in Rome"
Italy's total is lower partly because only US-style fast food pizzas were included in its survey, and those sold in restaurants did not count.

But although Spain and Italy's amounts are comparatively low, they have increased the amount they spend by 157% and 169% since 1994.

[ image: The amount of fast food consumed in Europe, in pounds stirling]
The amount of fast food consumed in Europe, in pounds stirling
The UK, by comparison, has always had a penchant for convenience foods, and will spend only 32% more this year than in 1994.

Sarah Schenker, of the British Nutrition Foundation, says: "The statistics are quite worrying but it has to be taken in context.

"It depends on how often people eat fast food. It's fine in moderation.

"There is nothing wrong in going out once in a while for a burger or a pizza but if you look at your breakfast, lunch and dinner and there is too much fat in your diet you need to limit your intake."

'Balance is the key'

Ms Schenker said while burgers and fried chicken was not good for you pizzas could be quite healthy - especially crusty ones with lots of vegetables on top.

She said she thought Britain's high consumption of fast food was due to the rise of the "fast lane culture", in which people were often too busy to sit down and eat a proper balanced meal.

Mintel says that fast food conglomerates will only expand still further by overcoming Spanish, Italian and French pride in their national eating habits.

US giant McDonald's has had to adapt its menus to suit local tastes, such as serving gazpacho soup in Spain.

Other obstacles include competition from ethnic and traditional foods.

Chris Butcher, Mintel's leisure consultant, said: "Availability of land and its cost, together with government regulations, are likely to continue to present difficulties for future fast food operators."

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