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People Drinking More - But at Home

By Karen Attwood, PA

Alcohol consumption increased last year, but people were drinking more at home rather than in bars, restaurants and pubs, according to statistics released today.

People ate out less and households were consuming less overall, the National Statistics study for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs revealed.

But the consumption of fruit and vegetables fell despite the Government’s strong message to eat at least five portions a day.

There is good news for the dairy industry – the average household purchase of whole milk rose by 5.8% last year, cheese 1.1%, and the overall figure for milk and cream consumption rose by 1.7%.

Soft drinks consumption was also on the increase with a 10% rise in that drunk at home and 2.1% in that consumed outside the home.

Jim Holding, statistician at Defra, said the switch to people choosing to drink at home could be part of a long-term trend as the population aged.

“It could also be because people have got the drink-drive message and are therefore choosing to stay home,” he said.

Rebecca Foster, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, said the alcohol statistics were worrying.

“People are being encouraged to drink less so these figures are a concern,” she said.

There was a 9% rise in alcohol being consumed at home and 5.5% decrease in alcohol being drunk at bars, restaurants and pubs. The overall rise for alcohol consumption was 1.9%, according to Defra.

“The decrease in the consumption of fruit and vegetables is also not a positive sign,” said Ms Foster. “There is much work being done right now to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables.

“They are low in calories and have huge benefits for long-term health and disease prevention.”

Fruit and vegetable consumption fell by 1.6%.

The survey is carried out each year with last year’s figures released today, so the healthy eating message was “perhaps taking a little longer to trickle down”, she said.

Mr Holding said the trend could be due to an increase in vegetable prices during this time period.

“We are seeing some positive trends,” Ms Foster said. “Salt and fat intake is down and there is an overall decrease in energy consumption.”

She added: “Eating out less is not a bad thing.

“People do it because it is convenient and a nice treat on an infrequent basis, but it is difficult to control what you are actually consuming if you do it every day.”

Mr Holding added: “People have an idea that we are eating out more but this survey of households shows this is not the case.”

The statistics are from a report called Quantities of Purchases of Food and Drink and derived Energy and Nutrient Intakes in the UK in 2003-04.

The estimates are based on food and drink purchases recorded in the Expenditure and Food Survey for the 12 month period from April 1, 2003, to March 31, 2004.

A more extensive report on food expenditure in the UK is due for release in July.


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