There has been a substantial increase in the number of people eating out during the Lunar New Year holiday season. In response to the fact that restaurant chains offer an increased variety of children's meals for the family, in October of 2015, the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) under the Executive Yuan investigated children’s take-away meals offered by 18 restaurants in order to conduct tests on the nutritional compositions of the meals, and to invite nutritionists to review the six major food groups in each meal. In view of the fact that the children’s meals that were supplied targeted children under the age of ten years, the food content and nutrients of school lunches for elementary students in the first through third grades was determined to be the relevant recommended nutrient absorption of one meal, and therefore became the nutritional standard as a benchmark for comparison.
1.1 Calorific values: Fifteen items exceeded the standard meal intake recommendations (670 kilocalories), and the highest was 2.5 times higher, which already comes close to the daily recommended caloric intake limit for first through third grade elementary school students (1650-2100 kilocalories).
1.2 Fat: Fifteen items exceeded the standard recommended meal intake (20 grams), and 11 of these items were two times the recommended intake, and the highest was 4.5 times the recommended intake.
1.3 Sugar: Fifteen items exceed the upper limit of the standard recommended dietary meal (8.375 grams). Twelve of these items were higher than twice the recommended amount, and the highest was nearly eight times the recommended amount, which is even more than the upper daily intake limit for adults.
1.4 Sodium: Fifteen items exceeded the standard recommended meal intake (800 milligrams). Nine of these items were 1.5 times greater than the recommended standard, and the highest was 2.5 times more than the standard, which comes quite close to the daily recommended intake for adults as determined by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
2.Six Major Food Groups
2.1Beans, fish, meat and eggs: Ten items exceed the target value of a standard meal (2 servings); seven of these items are more than 1.5 times the recommended intake, and the highest is 2.5 times more, which approaches the daily upper intake limit of beans, fish, meat and eggs for first through third graders (4-6 servings).
2.2Vegetables: Seventeen items fall short of meeting the target value for a standard meal (1.5 servings); twelve of these items fall short by only 0.5 serving, and the lowest items do not serve any vegetables.
2.3 Fruits: Ten items are less than the target value of a standard meal (1 serving); some of these ten items have only half a serving, while others have none. It is noted that, through checking the menus, seven meals which meet the target value provide fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate as a substitute for fresh fruit. This is still contrary to the principles of a healthy diet, and it is worth noting that this diet possibly therefore includes an unnecessary excessive intake of sugar.
Results of this investigation have already been reported to the 44th Meeting of the Consumer Protection Committee (CPC) under the Executive Yuan, wherein it was requested of the Ministry of Health and Welfare to guide the relevant food and beverage business operators to make adjustments to the menus they provide. Also, the food and beverage industry is asked to balance nutritional concerns with children’s taste preferences. At the same time, they should broaden the scope of consumer advocacy in strengthening the concept of healthy eating and nutrition.
The DCP asks that children’s nutritional consumption be taken into consideration when the food and beverage industry plans the contents of children’s meals. At the same time, it is suggested that relevant nutritional information of children’s meals be indicated on the menus, and that alternative meals be made available in order to provide consumers with a variety of orders to consider for their meals.
In conclusion, the DCP suggests that when parents order children’s meals for their kids, they should pay particular attention to the distribution of nutrients and the six major food groups; consideration should be given as to whether or not ordering a children’s set meal or an à la carte meal will suffice. As well, consumers are urged to bear in mind the age of their children when ordering meals, appropriately adjusting food intake and nutrition at each meal so as to safeguard the health of their children.