Food and DrinkNews

Mandatory Calorie Labelling As New Legislation Described As A ‘Slap In The Face’ For Hospitality Sector

Itemised Calorie listing on menus will be mandatory for out-of-home businesses including pubs, restaurants, cafés and takeaway businesses with over 250 employees under new laws being drawn up by government, after several years of speculation.

As the coronavirus death rate increased return to has revealed that being overweight or obese increases risk which many observers believe has galvanised the government into action. Currently the United Kingdom has one of the highest levels of obesity in Europe, with over 60% of adults in the United Kingdom currently overweight.

The government has said its plans around calorie labelling follow research that people consume around 200 more calories a day if they eat out. However, UKHospitality has warned it could cost businesses a staggering £40,000 a menu.

UKHospitality’s CEO, Kate Nicholls, commented: “Hospitality shares the Government’s commitment to public health objectives, and the focus on public education and information is certainly a welcome strategy. Britain’s eating out sector has made great strides in providing healthier and lifestyle choice options on their menus, responding to consumer demands and nudging healthier behaviour, as evident in the rapid growth of catering for veganism, for example.

“Millions of Britons have rediscovered the joy of cooking from scratch during lockdown, a trend that has been rightly and roundly applauded. We should embrace this by embedding more nutritional education in schools. 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.

“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. 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. The sector is keen to play an active and positive role in helping to deliver and support initiatives in schools, to better communicate the benefits of healthy cooking and eating – there is simply no question that education has an enormous role to play in reducing obesity in the long term.

“We are genuinely keen to work with Government to address obesity but the extra regulatory and cost burdens of measures like menu labelling could not come at a worse time. 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.”

Tim Rycroft, Chief Operating Officer at the Food and Drink Federation said:

“The UK’s food and drink manufacturers and the half a million people we employ – so recently the heroes heralded by government for feeding the nation during the Covid crisis – will be reeling today from this punishing blow.

“As the economy struggles to recover, new restrictions on promoting and advertising everyday food and drink will increase the price of food (1), reduce consumer choice and threaten jobs across the UK. And all to save 17 calories a day (2).

On a missed opportunity: “A new government focus on the promotion of physical activity is welcome, but this package looks like a terrible missed opportunity. After months in which people have thought more about diet and exercise, we could have embarked on a bold programme to promote healthier lifestyles and better diet choices – encouraging consumption of fibre, fruit and vegetables. Instead, at the heart of this programme are old and discredited policies that will raise prices, limit choice and hit two of the UK’s most successful industries.

On proposed promotions and advertising bans: “It is extraordinary that the government is proposing a ban on promotions of food and drink in retail at such a precarious economic time. With household budgets more stretched than ever before, the Scottish Government recently reversed its decision to press ahead with promotional restrictions. They said the Covid crisis had rendered their impact assessments meaningless. Why are things different in England?

“Government is pulling in different directions. From August the Chancellor is paying for people to eat out whilst the Health Secretary is proposing banning promotions on the same foods in supermarkets.

“Further, there is very limited evidence that these measures will effectively tackle obesity. The UK Government’s own figures suggested that proposed bans on advertising and promotions combined would only reduce children’s average calorie consumption by 17 calories per day (2).

“For more than a decade, our industry has worked willingly with successive governments to reduce salt, fat and sugars. Government is right in its renewed ambition for a healthier, more active population, but it is also time it put real money behind specific, targeted measures to help those most afflicted by obesity, rather than relying on headline chasing measures