According to reports in The Sunday Times, “out-of-home calorie labelling” is one of a number of measures being taken to force restaurants and the wider food industry to do more to encourage the public to make healthier food choices.
The proposals are expected to be subject to a public consultation, with an announcement likely in June. It’s currently unclear whether the rules will apply to all restaurants or just large chains, as in the US.
Most national restaurant and pub chains publish calorie counts and other nutritional info, but the majority don’t include it on menus. Brands that do publish calorie counts on menus include Wetherspoon and The Real Greek.
In 2010 a group of UK operators including KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut trialled putting calorie information on menus as part of a Food Standards Agency campaign, but the majority decided not to extend the scheme.
Yesterday KFC UK & Ireland pledged to reduce the amount of calories per serving in its meals by 20% by 2025. The fried chicken chain says it will trial a new vegetarian option and focus on creating lighter meals under 600 calories in line with Public Health England (PHE) recommendations.
Trade body UKHospitality is not in favour of mandatory calorie labelling.
“The sector is already taking decisive, proactive action to reformulate menus to reduce calories and increase transparency and choice for customers,” says CEO Kate Nicholls. “Many venues already include calorie content on their menus and have done so voluntarily. For the vast majority of customers, eating out remains an occasional treat.”
“A blanket introduction of mandatory calorie labelling would represent a serious additional cost for businesses already facing tightening margins, starkly illustrated by recent restaurant closures. It would also represent a considerable burden for those operators that change their menus regularly, some on a daily basis, to incorporate seasonal ingredients and specials.”
A recent study found that putting calorie counts on menus reduced how much people eat by just 12%. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford combined results from a variety of studies evaluating the effect of nutritional labels on purchasing and consumption habits in a systematic review.