UK restaurant menus to display calorie content to tackle obesity

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on May 13, 2021

New rules to be enacted in the British parliament today and come into effect from April 2022

Packaged food items have long been required to display calorie information, but the Boris Johnson government in the United Kingdom is enacting new rules from Thursday (May 13) to make it mandatory for restaurants, takeaways, and cafes to reveal calorie content, as part of efforts to tackle obesity.

Regulations are to be laid in parliament that will require large companies with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants, and takeaways, to display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drink items that are prepared for customers.

From April 2022, calorie information will need to be displayed at the point of choice for the customer, such as physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms, and food labels, officials said, adding that the part of the measure of the wider strategy to tackle obesity will help to ensure people are able to make more informed, healthier choices when eating food out or ordering takeaways.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the impact that obesity can have on people’s health and health outcomes. Johnson, who was infected in April last year and recovered after a stay in the intensive care unit (ICU), has been on a fitness regime to reduce weight while appealing to Britons to cut obesity.

It is estimated that overweight and obesity-related conditions across the UK cost the National Health Service £6.1 billion (b) (Dh31.44b) each year. Almost two-thirds, or 63 per cent, of adults in England, are overweight or living with obesity – and one in three children leave primary school overweight or obese.

The UK's Public Health Minister Jo Churchill said: “Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families, both in restaurants and at home. That is why we want to make sure everyone has access to accurate information about the food and drink we order”.

She added: “These measures form an important building block in our strategy to support and encourage people in achieving and maintaining a healthier weight.”

By only requiring large businesses to label calories on menus, it will not impact small, independent businesses and will ensure those who might find the requirement more difficult are not impacted.

In a Public Health England survey on calorie reduction, 79 per cent of respondents said they think that menus should include the number of calories in food and drinks.

In the new regulations, there will be a provision that permits companies to provide a menu without calorie information at the express request of the customer.

As a result, people who may find viewing calorie information more difficult may be able to avoid this in certain situations when eating out, officials said.

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