Councils urge restaurant and pub chains to display calories on menus

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

The restaurant industry is being urged to do more to tackle obesity
The restaurant industry is being urged to do more to tackle obesity

Related tags: Fast food

Restaurant and pub chains are being urged by councils to introduce calorie labelling on menus in a bid to tackle rising obesity rates.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, believes the plans will help the 3.5m children in the UK classed as overweight and ease pressure on the NHS.

A similar scheme in the USA has given large restaurant chains until 2016 to introduce calorie counts on their menus as part of a crackdown on poor public health by the US government.

"In many cases, people are unaware of how many calories they are consuming," said councillor Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board.

"Food and drink outlets should be doing more to provide clear and prominent labelling which spells this out clearly.

"This is all about enabling people to make informed choices about what they eat and drink. Some retailers are already introducing calorie counts and this is a step in the right direction. But the industry needs to go further, faster so people know how many calories their food and drink contains.”

Industry response

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), warned against imposing additional costs on businesses.

"Pubs and bars spend a significant amount of time and money ensuring that their customers are presented with all the information to make an informed choice," she said.

“We are, as a sector, committed to tackling health harms but we are concerned about the potential cost implications of the widespread introduction of new menu labelling schemes. Licensed hospitality businesses face tight enough margins without the added cost of additional labelling."

Displaying calorie counts has long been a contentious issue in the hospitality industry. In 2010 a group of 18 large operators including KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King trialled labelling menus with calorie information as part of a Food Standards Agency campaign – but the majority decided not to extend the scheme.

The LGA’s calls for action follow the launch of the ‘Culinary Kids’ campaign, supported by Marcus Wareing and chains including Busaba Eathai, which is challenging restaurants to overhaul ‘unhealthy’ children’s menus.

Earlier this year a number of ‘family friendly’ restaurants, including Loch Fyne and Burger King, came under fire after it was discovered their children's dishes contained dangerously high levels of salt​.

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