Providing nutritional information in workplace canteens has helped to improve the health of staff at Unilever, the consumer goods giant has revealed.
The company is to offer all 7,500 UK employees advice on better diets and exercise after a workplace trial involving 175 employees last year helped some to improve their health and fitness.
Under the Fit Business scheme, 104 office workers underwent health checks at the start of the year, of which 48 (80%) were deemed obese. At the end of the year, 42 returned for a second weigh-in, with 16 (38%) being overweight. This amounts to a 9% reduction in the number of people classed as overweight.
A similar experiment with the remaining 71 employees was carried out at Unilever's Port Sunlight factory in Merseyside, where small numbers of people managed to lose weight and cut body fat.
Half of the office employees (52%) and nearly half of the factory workers (42%) taking part acknowledged the pilot had improved the quality of their diet.
Alan Walters, vice-president of HR at Unilever UK & Ireland, said providing "attention grabbing" nutritional information in staff canteens helped employees to make informed dietary choices.
Walters added that the pilot highlighted the roles that employers and their workplace catering partners could play in improving the nation's health.
"Through taking some simple measures, major employers have a real opportunity to help employees live healthy lives - quickly, on a sufficiently large scale, and with no impact on public spending," he told Caterersearch sister website PersonnelToday.com.
A number of workplace caterers have been working with the Food Standards Agency on providing healthier meals, taking steps such as including nutritional information on menus and reducing fat and salt content in meals.
FSA says workplace meals are now officially healthier >>
By Daniel Thomas
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