Restaurants and pubs could be forced to display calorie counts on their menus if they do not respond to attempts to instate a voluntary system.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, whose department has recently taken control of nutritional labelling from the Food Standards Agency, has suggested he is prepared to make the notion mandatory for both food and drink, as part of plans to tackle obesity levels.
The announcement comes a year after the FSA launched a trial scheme with 18 restaurant and pub operators, who printed calorie counts next to menu items.
But last month reports indicated that several operators had discontinued the scheme, with only five firms agreeing to give a ‘forward, long-term commitment’: Pret A Manger, Wimpy, Co-Operative Cafes, The Camden Food Company and The Real Greek.
Earlier this year the Conservative party announced plans to promote the display of consistent nutritional information in restaurants with more than 15 outlets, a notion thought too costly and time consuming for independent restaurateurs and pubs with daily changing menus.
Bob Cotton, former chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said at the time: “We believe that calorie counted menus for independent restaurants will cause considerable problems and will be costly in terms of time and expertise required.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health, said: “We are working with the industry on a range of options and currently there are no plans to legislate.”