TAKEAWAY shop owners in Scotland's biggest city are to be advised on the buying and preparation of their meals in an attempt to improve the health of customers.

Officials will urge shop owners to change recipes, cooking methods and could offer incentives if they comply with the initiative in Glasgow.

City council food law enforcement officers are to use their diplomatic skills to persuade traders selling fish and chips, Chinese, Indian and Italian food to slash the use of saturated fats.

Last year, officials carried out an online survey to estimate the popularity of different types of takeaway food, where preparation involves “a predominance of frying”.

It showed Chinese food was popular with 76 per cent of people, 68 per cent said they liked Indian/Pakistani food, while fish and chips trailed in third, liked by 59 per cent of the nearly 700 respondents. Only two per cent liked Japanese style food while 14 per cent backed “American Style meals (including burgers)”.

A separate survey found that of 512 Glasgow outlets offering deep fried food, 198 were Indian style takeaways, 171 Chinese and 101 offered fish and chips. “The number of fried chicken outlets was not statistically significant”, officials added.

The local authority's Land and Environmental Services (LES) department, which is behind the initiative, is concerned about frying practices in hot food takeaway businesses.

They fear the preparation is increasing levels of saturated fat in the food. These include repeated use of oil in deep fat fryers, or the use of filtered oil from fryers in dishes cooked on a stove.

Now the department plans to approach businesses to engage with managers to improve methods of preparation. A briefing to councillors prior to the launch of the scheme suggested strategies including “reformulation of ingredients/recipes” and “establish whether there is a business case for an award/incentive/recognition scheme for cooperating businesses.”

In a report to the Health and Social Care committee, LES director Alastair Brown explained it had identified the type of businesses which would be most likely to deep-fry foods in significant volume.

Mr Brown added: "Given the nature of takeaway food generally preferred in Glasgow (and Scotland as a whole), this was determined to be fast food and takeaway outlets.”

He adds that small independent businesses are the most likely offenders at reusing oils, and they are less likely to have access to advice on diet and nutrition issues.

The programme – to be carried out using existing food sampling budgets – could influence national policy on the food industry, Mr Brown says, if it is a success.

In March 2014, a report from the UK Government’s Food Standards Agency on takeaway food in Scotland said saturated fats posted a higher risk to the health of Scots than transfatty acids, and claimed use of oils in takeaway outlets could have a large impact. It recommended that businesss owners should use different, lighter oils and change them frequently.

It also warned some foods which are not traditionally fried are still high in saturated and trans-fats, particularly the giant doner kebabs served in many Scottish towns and cities. “A number of the doner kebab portions in the current study were very large (500g) in size”, it said. “A reduction in overall portion size coud significantly reduce fat intakes”.

A council spokesman said: “Our officers work closely with businesses across Glasgow on a wide range of food standards and food safety issues – and we recognise that good practice in food premises can have a positive impact on health.

“This project is still at an early stage, however.”