Time to display the calories

Back in 2018, I wrote a blog discussing some of the evidence and benefits of adding calorie values to menus as part of the strategy to tackle obesity.  At that point, the UK government was proposing to introduce legislation to make this mandatory for the out of home sector in England and since then the COVID-19 pandemic has really shown us the impact obesity has on health and health outcomes.  

That proposal is now a reality with regulations having been laid before parliament to ensure implementation by April 2022.  The new regulation is known as the Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) (England) Regulations 2021.

The new regulations are being introduced to ensure that large businesses display calorie information on menus and food labels in order to help consumers make healthier choices when eating out.  This means cafes, restaurants and takeaways with 250+ employees must provide the calorie information for food and soft drinks at the point of choice – whether that be a physical or online menu, food label or via an online or app-based food order & delivery service.

There are a few points worth highlighting from the draft regulation:

The energy content (kcal) must be provided for a single portion or, if the item is meant for consumption by more than one person, the whole item.

The size of the portion or the number of people it shall serve must also be displayed along with a statement “adults need around 2000kcal a day” (the latter is not required on a children’s only menu).

Foods in scope of the regulation include: those suitable for immediate consumption both on or off the premises; food that isn’t pre-packed or requires further preparation by the consumer before eating e.g. peeling/washing/cooking or re-heating.

There are a number of exempt foods such as: condiments provided to be added by the consumer; foods provided to hospital patients/care home residents/school children; unprocessed single ingredient foods; fresh fruit or veg; food provided by a charity.

Foods not included on the menu that are made at the express request of a customer or have been made in a different way than usual are also exempt from calorie information.

There are concerns from eating disorder charities that the new rules could exacerbate eating disorder thoughts and behaviours or increase stress for those with eating disorders.  With this in mind, the government has included a provision permitting businesses to provide a menu without calorie information at the request of the customer.

As experts in food and nutrition labelling, providing nutrition information for menus and product labels for over 20 years, AB Food Nutrition can work with you to implement the new regulation quickly, easily and cost-effectively.  We calculate the nutrient profile of your recipes based on the ingredients, quantities and cooking methods used. We can even provide suggestions on how to improve the nutritional profile of your recipes so that you can offer customers healthier choices.  For more information, please contact Anne.

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