Mandatory calorie labelling for larger out-of-home businesses has been on the cards for nearly a decade but the Coronavirus crisis appears to have galvanised the government, although it is currently unclear when the new rules will come into force.
New research has confirmed that being obese or overweight puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19.
The UK has one of the highest levels of obesity in Europe. Almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or obese, with similar figures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It has also been hit harder by the pandemic by most European countries. Trade body UKHospitality says that the plans were well-meaning but ‘could not have come at a worse time’.
“A well-intentioned targeting of child obesity is at risk of evolving into an interventionist approach that heaps burdens on hospitality businesses just when they are at their most vulnerable and fighting for survival,” says CEO Kate Nicholls.
“At-risk sections of society need specific targeting but the most constructive approach with most of society is to provide effective and credible tools to allow people to make informed decisions about their lifestyles, nutrition and exercise, from as early an age as possible.”
“Cooking from scratch is what restaurants do every day, and it’s how many of them manage to keep their offers attractive, with changing daily specials and locally-sourced seasonal dishes.”
“Menu labelling could cost as much as £40,000 per menu run for some businesses, disincentivising such innovative and sustainable approaches, and stifling the efforts to offer exciting and healthy meals to customers.”
“Hospitality has played its part in lockdown, feeding and accommodating vulnerable people and key workers. Now, as we focus on securing jobs and helping the economy and communities to recover, a raft of costs and regulatory burdens would be a slap in the face.”
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.
The Government is also planning to consult on making venues provide calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks.
Published today (27 July), the Tackling Obesity policy paper also sets out plans to ban HFSS products (food and soft drink products that are high in fat, salt or sugar) from being advertised on TV and online before 9pm.
The Government will also launch a short consultation on a total plan of HFSS products online.