Out of home sector

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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Salt Reduction 2024

Earlier this year, Public health England (PHE) consulted with industry on new salt reduction targets.  Their ambition was set out in the green paper ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’ with the aim to reduce the population’s salt intakes to 7g per day.  The recommended population average salt intake is 6g per day to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Voluntary salt reduction targets for industry have been around for quite some time with those set in 2014 building on three earlier sets (2006, 2008 and 2011).  The aim was to gradually reduce the levels of salt in the foods that contribute the most salt to our diet.

By 2018, PHE’s progress report showed that 81% of products were meeting the targets for 2017.

The new targets are to be achieved by 2024 and are based on the 2017 targets with revisions made where it is believed there is further scope for salt reduction.  Retailers and manufacturers should ensure their products meet the targets in table 1 and that foods offered for eating out of home such as those from in-store cafes, food on the go and takeaway should meet those in table 2.  Businesses who provide food and meals as part of the eating out, takeaway and delivery sector should ensure the foods they purchase or make meet the relevant targets in both tables.

Some notable changes to table 1 from the previous 2017 salt targets are:

  • The salted butter category now includes flavoured butters and buttery spreads such as garlic butter
  • The ready meal category has a new sub-category for sides and accompaniments e.g. bhajis, onion rings, coated garlic mushrooms
  • Salt and vinegar products category specifically lists popcorn and nuts in addition to crisps and snacks
  • New sub-categories for savoury and sweet popcorn and flavoured nuts
  • All flavours of ketchup and mayonnaise are now included as well as vegan alternatives
  • New sub-categories for chilli sauces, dips and condiments such as horseradish, tartare, seafood and mint sauce.

Table 2 includes targets for 11 food categories based on the 10 most popular food groups purchased in the eating out, takeaway and delivery sector and a specific target for children’s main meals.  These comprise of a ‘dish target’ where the food can be served as a meal on its own e.g. burgers, pies and chips, and a ‘meal target’ where a specific dish includes sides/accompaniment e.g. pasta dish with garlic bread and a side salad.

Businesses are expected to start working towards these new targets whilst also working to reduce levels of sugar and calories.  PHE plans to report on progress in 2022.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers and caterers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling & menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as reducing salt, sugar and calories.  Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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