Following the introduction of mandatory calorie counts for large hospitality businesses in England last week, the public in Scotland is being invited to have its say on Government plans to add the number of calories to menus in the out of home food sector including cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
“It is important that the Scottish Government hears views from businesses on the impact such a scheme will have on them and their customers,” said Leon Thompson, UKHospitality Scotland's executive director.
The 12-week consultation will seek views on how this could apply to food and hospitality businesses, depending on their size; public sector institutions such as hospitals and prisons; pre-packed food such as filled sandwiches; online takeaway menus; and children’s menus.
It will inform whether legislation is introduced to make it a legal requirement for calories to be included on menus and forms part of the government’s wider actions to ensure Scotland is a place where we eat well and have a healthy weight, including our aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
Maree Todd, Public Health Minister, said: “Before the pandemic, people living in Scotland were consuming more and more food and drink out of home or ordering it in. Whether it’s breakfast at a roadside café, grabbing a lunchtime soup and sandwich from a local convenience store or ordering food online from a restaurant, most of us were increasingly buying food outside the home – a trend I expect to resume as we recover from the pandemic.
“Two-thirds of the population living in Scotland is recorded as living with overweight or obesity – a key factor in our plan to address this is calorie labelling. We know that giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals will enable people to make healthier choices when eating out, or ordering in. This is not novel practice – calories are already required on retail food purchases and calorie labelling for out of home sites is mandated in many other countries.
“Many food companies in Scotland have already taken this significant step voluntarily. We want to learn from those experiences and I would urge everyone to share their thoughts in this consultation.”
The Scottish Government argues that mandating calorie labelling at the point of choice could support the food and hospitality sector to make a key contribution in improving dietary health, but Thompson warns of strains being placed on businesses.
“There is already anecdotal feedback from businesses in England of the effects calorie labelling is having in terms of cost and resources, as well as customer relations,” he added.
“It is essential that that we avoid such pitfalls. Our businesses are still very fragile as they strive to rebuild after the pandemic - they need time to recover, free from further regulatory burdens.”