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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 May;70(5):642-4. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.227. Epub 2016 Feb 3.

Comparison of the portion size and frequency of consumption of 156 foods across seven European countries: insights from the Food4ME study.

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UCD Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.
Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
ZIEL Research Centre of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Technische Universität München, München, Germany.
Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK.
Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Physiology, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.
CIBER Fisiopatología Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERobn), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain.
Department of Human Biology, NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Centre+(MUMC+), Maastricht, The Netherlands.
National Food and Nutrition Institute (IZZ), Warsaw, Poland.
Human Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.


There are no standardised serving/portion sizes defined for foods consumed in the European Union (EU). Typical serving sizes can deviate significantly from the 100 g/100 ml labelling specification required by the EU legislation. Where the nutritional value of a portion is specified, the portion size is determined by the manufacturers. Our objective was to investigate the potential for standardising portion sizes for specific foods, thereby ensuring complementarity across countries. We compared portion size for 156 food items measured using a food frequency questionnaire across the seven countries participating in the Food4me study. The probability of consuming a food and the frequency of consumption differed across countries for 93% and 58% of the foods, respectively. However, the individual country mean portion size differed from the average across countries in only 16% of comparisons. Thus, although dietary choices vary markedly across countries, there is much less variation in portion sizes. Our results highlight the potential for standardisation of portion sizes on nutrition labels in the EU.

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