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Counting the calories

The Department of Health and Social Care have held a consultation on the mandatory disclosure of calories on pub and restaurant dishes. In a move to try and educate the public and help them to make healthier choices, they are suggesting that operators show the calorie content of all dishes on their menus.

If you have a set menu that doesn’t change often I guess that this is a pain, but not impossible. For small pubs, or those that prefer to change their menu depending on what is in season and looks good at the butchers or market that week, this could be hugely onerous – and expensive.

The BPPA [British Beer and Pub Association] are fully against the move, saying that there is “overwhelming evidence” that forcing pubs to display calorie content would have no discernible impact on customer’s choices or behaviour. Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive also said, “Considering the cost burden pubs already face from beer duty, business rates, VAT and staffing costs, mandatory calorie labelling could be another nail in the coffin for many. Should mandatory measures be imposed, we would urge exemptions for smaller businesses such as pubs.”

Researchers say that there is an urgent need for interventions to deal with obesity, which is now a global health problem. Excess weight accounts for 44% of the global burden of diabetes, 23% of all heart disease and between 7%-41% of some cancers. Losing between just 5% – 10% of body weight has significant health benefits for overweight people.

With slimming groups and clubs more popular than ever in the UK and the continuing media and social media focus on healthy living, there are already more eateries showing awareness of the need to provide lower fat, lower carb, lower calorie meal choices.

In 2019, the number of consumers choosing to eat out will grow substantially by around 83m visits, with home deliveries growing by around 101m, according to data from NPD Group. Dining out in the evening will decline, whilst the breakfast and lunch trade will increase. With this in mind, ensuring that people can make informed choices about the content of their meals can surely only be a welcome addition for the consumer. With any luck, the government will realise the enormous pressure it will put on operators and make concessions in other areas to compensate.