Calories will be labelled on menus and food labels in out-of-home food businesses from today, April 6 April 2022.
Large businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, are required to display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drink items that are prepared for customers.
Calorie information 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 new rule is part of government plans to tackle obesity by helping people to make healthier choices. It is estimated that overweight and obesity related conditions across the UK cost the NHS £6.1 billion each year. Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity – and 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese.
Some High Street chains already publish information about the calorie content of their food on their menus, such as Wetherspoons pubs and The Real Greek restaurants. McDonald’s has been doing it for more than a decade.
Critics opposed to calorie labelling say that eating out isn’t to blame for obesity levels in the UK. According to data from Statista, from 2019, 40 per cent of people asked only dined out just once a month. For the rest of the month, on average 29 days, they eat at home. Only 8.5 per cent said they eat out more than once a week.
Masterchef winner Sven-Hanson Britt tweeted the change was a “terrible thing to happen to the hospitality industry”. He warned the regulation “could end creativity, spontaneity and lead to boring tick-box cooking”.
“Kids will grow up in restaurants, hotels and cafes only looking at that little number below a dish. Choices will be made based on a number alone. The love of flavour, ingredients, history, cooking craft or nutrition will be lost and masked by a newly perceived focus,” he said.
Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association Emma McClarkin said: “Of course, the health and wellbeing of customers is front of mind for our sector, especially after the past two years, but since being announced there has not been sufficient time or guidance given to help businesses prepare for the changes to menus. This is why we called for a delay in their implementation to give pubs some much-needed breathing space in the early stages of their recovery.
“After the pandemic pubs are already under extreme pressure. Energy costs are sharply rising, there is uncertainty in the supply chain and VAT has been increased. These new calorie labelling requirements layer on an extra burden and costs at an already difficult time.