Calorie counts to appear on menus as part of Government drive to tackle obesity

Businesses with 250-plus employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, are required to display the information from April 6.

05 April 2022

Diners will see the calorie content of dishes on menus from Wednesday as part of a Government drive to tackle obesity and improve the nation’s health.

Businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, will be required to display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks prepared for customers.

Calories will need to be displayed at the point of choice for the customer, such as physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms and food labels.

The measures, which form part of the Government’s wider war on obesity, have been introduced to help consumers make more informed, healthier choices when eating out or ordering takeaways.

It is estimated that overweight and obesity-related conditions cost the NHS £6.1 billion each year.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or obese – and one in three children leaves primary school at an unhealthy weight.

In a Public Health England survey on calorie reduction, 79% of respondents said they think menus should include the number of calories in food and drinks.

However, the move has received a mixed response, with one charity warning the move will negatively affect people with eating disorders.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, said the eating disorder charity was “extremely disappointed”.

He said: “We know from the people we support that including calories on menus can contribute to harmful eating disorder thoughts and behaviours worsening.

“For instance, it can increase a fixation on restricting calories for those with anorexia or bulimia, or increase feelings of guilt for those with binge-eating disorder.

“There is also very limited evidence that the legislation will lead to changed eating habits among the general population.

“1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, and sadly we know that the pandemic has contributed to more people than ever before needing support for these serious mental illnesses.

“Beat has continually asked the Government to consider the impact on people affected by eating disorders and to take an evidence-based approach when creating health policies.

“This should involve consulting eating disorder clinicians and experts by experience at every stage of the process.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Obesity is one of the biggest health issues we face as a country and clear food labelling plays an important role in helping people make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

“We are all used to seeing nutritional information on products sold in supermarkets and displaying calorie information on menus can help us consume fewer calories when eating out or getting a takeaway.

“The regulations will also allow businesses to provide menus without calorie information at the request of the customer.”

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