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The Ministry of Health is funding a three year study on hot chips, as part of an initiative to make the popular takeaway food healthier.

Horticulture New Zealand chip group food and education spokeswoman Glenda Gourley said the funding was initially being used to collect data on hot chips to help build an accurate nutritional profile of the food.

"The data which is being collected now will include information on serving sizes, costs, fat content, fat profile and the salt content of hot chips purchased from chippies throughout the country.

"From there we'll be in a strong position to develop industry standards for the cooking and serving of chips."

Ms Gourley said the long-term aim was to formalise an education and promotion strategy to disseminate and implement the standards, including online training modules for chip shop owners and their staff.

The Chip Group - made up of the Potato Growers Association representing Horticulture New Zealand, Bakels, Burns and Ferrall, Food2Go, Goodman Fielder, Moffat, Huhtamaki, McCain Foods, Mr Chips, Southern Hospitality, Premo Filtration, NZARFD and the Heart Foundation - has until now been involved in the Best Chip Shop Competition.

Ms Gourley said the competition aimed encourage and educate shop owners on the "shake, bang and hang" cooking technique which helped to reduce fat absorption by the chip.

"The extension of the Chip Group's activities signals a strong commitment from both industry and now the Government to make chips lower in fat."

Heart Foundation nutritionist, Judith Morley-John, said the fat content of the chips could be reduced by up to 20 per cent.

"However, in order to achieve this, a comprehensive education programme now needs to be put in place covering a range of cooking techniques including frying procedures, oil temperature control, chip and oil selection, and maintenance of the oil."

If all shops used the recommended frying techniques, it could remove over 2500 tonnes of fat from the national food supply annually, she said.

Regional winners in last year's Best Chip Shop Competition Competition achieved an average fat content of 8.2 per cent, with the fat content of an average chip around 11.5 percent, she said.

The 2007 Competition is now underway, with shop registrations due to close at the end of July, with winners announced in November.

- NZPA