Calorie info on menus for Brits in battle of the bulge

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A scheme to provide diners in Britain with calorie information on menus is set to be introduced there this summer.

The calorie labelling scheme comes from the food watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and follows a survey which found people want more information about the food they buy in restaurants and cafes.

The FSA is eager for the public to have more consistent nutrition information available when they eat out and the introduction of calorie labelling is the first step in the Government’s strategy to tackle obesity - the ‘Healthy Food Code of Good Practice’ - which challenges the food industry to support the public in making healthier food choices to reduce rising levels of obesity and diet related illnesses.

The scheme will mean cafes, pubs and restaurants will be urged to display nutritional information on their menus; the FSA is apparently already negotiating with some of the biggest food chains about the initiative.

FSA chief executive Tim Smith says nutritional information is already provided on food in stores and there is no reason why more consistent information should also be available when eating out.

Research by the FSA found that people were in favour a combination of simple data at the point-of-sale with more comprehensive information available elsewhere if required and while the labelling scheme is still to be finalised the FSA wants caterers to provide calorie information on menus and also more information about fat, salt and sugar content included on leaflets at the outlet.

The FSA says consumers want clear and simple information at the point they choose what to eat on menus or menu boards and do not want to have to ask for it and the agency has already had healthy eating commitments from some major high street restaurant chains such as Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Subway and Wimpy.

The labelling scheme is similar to the system which became law in New York last year which has proven successful in reducing calorie in-take and as a measure to deal with increasing levels of obesity.

The FSA says though the focus is currently on large food chains if the scheme proves successful, small, independent caterers could follow suit with help.

A group campaigning for healthier food, the Food Commission, says the scheme needs to go further and comprehensive information needs to be provided by more than a handful of companies on a voluntary basis.

The British Hospitality Association estimates sales in the catering sector tripled between 1981 and 2005 - the FSA’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) shows that men get 25% of total food energy intake and women get 21% of energy from eating out.


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