Scottish restaurants could be forced to display calorie counts on all menus

The  Staff Canteen

Restaurants in Scotland could be forced to display calorie counts on all menus under a new proposal set out by Food Standards Scotland. 

The rationale behind the recommendations, which if implemented would also force all food outlets to create children's menus according to a code of practice, is to bring down obesity levels. According to the industry body, two thirds of the population are either overweight or obese. 

The paper states that Scotland's 39,000 restaurants, cafes and takeaways need to make "dramatic transformation" to combat unhealthy eating habits. 

Whereas voluntary guidelines have been in place for the "Out of Home" or OOH sector since 2011, the FSS believes that businesses have fallen short of making nutritional information about the food they are selling more available. 

Ross Finnie, chair of Food Standards Scotland, said: "Action is needed to transform the current food environment for our health."

He added: "Evidence shows that when people are aware of calorie content in food, it can influence their choices towards lower calorie options and encourages businesses to make the food they offer healthier. Eating out is now part of our everyday experience and is not always a treat as it was in the past, but we also know that calorie consumption out of home is often more than calories consumed in the home." 

Meanwhile chief executive of UKHospitality warned against the proposal, saying it would "represent a considerable additional cost for businesses already facing tightening margins," especially for restaurants whose menus are regularly changed "to incorporate locally sourced produce, seasonal ingredients and specials."

"Small and medium-sized businesses might also find their ability to innovate, particularly when tackling food waste, severely restricted. The end result is likely that prices would go up and investment would go down with much less choice for customers," he added. 

What's more, the industry body raised concerns that imposing such a law would negatively affect businesses operating across the UK by creating inconsistencies and confusion. 

However the FSS paper suggests potential alignment with the UK in the future, as it says cost and benefit assessments of calorie labelling have found "significant net benefits." 

"We are aware there will be costs to businesses and enforcing authorities in implementing mandatory calorie labelling, for example, time to calculate calories and reprint menus. This will need to be estimated in further policy development and off-set against cost savings to health and the wider economy." 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd August 2019

Scottish restaurants could be forced to display calorie counts on all menus