Obesity Action Scotland’s Dr Anna Gryka-MacPhail has written an update for our membership magazine “voice”. College Members can read the full magazine through our website. In this article, Anna explains about calorie information potentially being on menus across the UK.
In the near future, when you eat out in the UK, as you choose from the menu, you will see how many calories there are in each item of food and drink. This includes a plate of oysters in a fancy restaurant, a fish supper from a fish & chip shop, a box of popcorn in the cinema as well as pizza ordered online or through an app.
How will it happen?
Both Scotland and England held public consultations asking what the public, businesses, health professionals and everyone else thought about putting calories on all menus, boards and shelves in cafes, and on the websites where food is sold. In other words, at the point of purchase of ready-made food. In Scotland most respondents were for this move, highlighting a general support around informed choice. Food Standards Scotland have therefore advised Scottish Ministers to make menu calorie labelling mandatory. The UK Government have committed to setting out details of the consultation outcome and their proposed action for England soon.
Why will it happen?
We have tried a voluntary approach in the past and it did not work. Voluntary initiatives have been around since 2011 in the UK and so far only a quarter of out of home businesses display calories. It could be safely assumed that unless calorie labelling is made mandatory, this situation will not change.
Overweight and obesity levels in the UK have now reached 65% of adult population. This is mostly due to the type and amount of food that we consume. It is very common to eat food that is ready-made and we eat around a quarter of our calories out of home. The problem is that when we buy ready-made food, we have no control over portion size, ingredients used or calorie content. Unsurprisingly, habitual consumption of meals out of home in the UK is associated with higher calorie consumption. In the context of the increasing burden of obesity and diet related diseases changes to the out of home food environment are necessary.
There is evidence that calorie information on the menus may help people make healthier choices.
What do we think?
We, in Obesity Action Scotland, think this is great progress. While it is only a small step towards reducing levels of obesity in the UK, if taken together with other steps to improve diet and health, it is likely to change things for the better.