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Healthy eating: United Biscuits leads by example

05-Nov-2004

Staff at one of the UK's leading biscuit and snack manufacturers have been challenged to walk 10,000 steps every day as the company highlights a link between healthy bodies and healthy profits.

The 12,000 workers at United Biscuits, owner of famous brands such as Jaffa Cakes, McVities and KP, will be treated to personal pedometers to monitor their steps, as well as a six-month poster campaign providing information on issues such as obesity, excess sugar intake and advertising to children.

The grand strategy is based on a recent study by the Institute for Health and Productivity which discovered that fit and healthy workers are up to 20 per cent more productive than their ill or unhealthy colleagues.

 

Clive Harker, company medical advisor, said that United Biscuits aimed to "drive our business through the increased levels of productivity brought about by a healthier workforce".

 

Harker also said there was"increasing pressure on food manufacturers to show that they are actively informing customers and staff about the importance of having a balanced diet and healthy life style", adding that United Biscuits was one of the first food producers to direct such a campaign at employees.

 

The potential irony of a snack and confectionary food producer encouraging its workers to live more healthily is not completely lost on United Biscuits, and spokesperson Alexandra Chilvers said measures had also been taken to improve products.

 

The company has reduced salt content by 20 per cent in its best-selling biscuits, including McVities Chocolate Digestives, Rich Tea, and Hob Nobs. And Chilvers added that United Biscuits had removed trans fats, widely associated with raising the risk of heart disease, from its biscuit doughs, though not from its cream filling.

 

The company was keen to point out that promoting healthy workplace schemes on diet and lifestyle was included in the UK Food and Drink Federation's recent Food and Drink manifesto, alongside goals to reduce portion sizes and excess salt in products.

 

Chilvers said that the 10,000-step challenge was in response to Department of Health recommendations that people should walk at least 10,000 steps per day.

 

United Biscuits is going further at its Halifax plant by asking volunteers to take a health pledge to stop smoking, drink less alcohol, eat more healthily and lose weight where necessary. Those willing will then be weighed every week until Christmas.

 

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