Subject Material

"...and a Packet of Crisps, Please"

Published: 22.11.2010
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The potato is perhaps the most common supplement to a traditional meal. You can boil it, mash it or you can bake it. The potato is our number one staple food. An alternative way of preparing the potato is deep frying. Then you come up with the chunky bits called chips or the thin crispy slices called crisps. Nice and delicious – but beware!

Five Litres of Cooking Oil

Crisps as a tasty snack have become an obsession with the British according to a study recently published by Food4Thought. The consumption of crisps in Britain has exploded over the last decade. The British munch six billion bags of crisps every year, which is approximately the same as one tonne of crisps every three minutes! The “pack-a-day-crisp” habit is worrying as childhood obesity is increasing. Experts expect half of British children to be overweight by 2020 if the trend continues.

Poster from British Heart Foundation, The Guardian, Sept. 1, 2010Poster from British Heart Foundation, The Guardian, Sept. 1, 2010
Opphavsmann: British Heart Foundation
A campaign launched by Food4Thought attacks snack habits in general and fatty crisps in particular. “What goes into crisps goes into you” is the caption under the picture of a girl drinking cooking oil out of a can. A bag of crisps contains on average 3 teaspoons of cooking oil, which means that a child eating a packet or two every day (which many do) could just as well drink 5 litres of cooking oil in the space of a year.

The campaign which is supported by the British Heart Foundation has been criticised by the food industry for scare tactics and for overestimating the fat content in a bag of crisps. They claim that efforts are made to decrease the fat in their products. However, when nearly 70 per cent of British children enjoy a packet of crisps or two along with their daily lunch, this unhealthy snacking gives the health authorities great concern.

A Matter of Taste

But the British really love their crisps, and they come in a variety of styles and flavours. When the biggest crisp producer in Britain, Walker, launched a “Do us a flavour” competition, it received 1.2 million suggestions for new flavours. They also have their annual “Flavour Cup” to select the most popular crisp flavour, and the winner this year was “English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding”, a truly British flavour. More fancy and exotic flavours include “Balti Curry”, “Argentinian Steak” and “BBQ Kangaroo” just to mention some…

Check the two links below for more information. The first one is the issue as reported by BBC news. The next one is a longer article on the same issue from The Guardian, including a funny report from one of the Walker crisp factories.
BBC News "Pack-a-day crisp habit"
The Guardian "Crisps: a very British habit"


Sum up the article in a few sentences.

Find Out

  1. Given that the total population of the UK is 60 million, calculate the average consumption of crisps per capita.
  2. Study the links and find out how Walker tries to reduce the fat content in its products.


Without using a dictionary, try and explain these words / expressions.

  1. Staple food
  2. Obesity
  3. Overestimate
  4. What is the difference between “chips”, “crisps” and “(French) fries”?
  5. What is the pun in the title of Walker’s flavour competition?



Suggested key
  1. Staple food is a basic nutrient which we eat often.
  2. Obesity is the same as overweight
  3. Overestimate is to make something greater in amount or importance than it really is..
  4. Chips are potato bits fried in oil. Crisps are thin slices of potato fried in oil until they are crisp and golden. (French) fries are chips in American English.
  5. The title plays on the expression “Do me a favour”, and the company wants the public to do them a favour by suggesting a new flavour which will sell better.