New calorie labelling rules come into force to improve nation’s health

From today large restaurant chains, who employ more than 250 people, have to put on their menu the number of calories in all of their meals. This new legislation, part of the government's drive to tackle obesity, has been put in place to help us make healthier choices and help move restaurants to offer healthier dishes.

Do you think knowing how many calories are in a meal will influence what dish you choose?

There has been a mixed response to this legislation. On one hand it is good to be able to make an informed decision about what you are picking off a menu and if you are trying to manage your weight this can be a useful tool. However calories is just one aspect of food to consider. It is also useful to look at the nutritional quality of the dish and make a choice based on the nutrients it contains. 

Around 1.6 million people have an eating disorder in the UK. Calorie labelling may also pose a problem for these people, who have struggled with calorie counting in the past. When this legislation was announced last year Andrew Radford, from eating disorder charity Beat said:

“We are deeply disappointed that Parliament has chosen to overlook the research showing the risks that calorie labelling poses to those with eating disorders.”

However, campaigning from the charity has helped make sure that there is legislation on restaurants supplying a menu without calories on request and for the new rules not to be implemented in educational settings.

It is estimated that nearly two thirds of adults are living with overweight or obesity and this leads to an increased risk of related ill health.  On average, 25% of an adult’s calorie intake comes from food from outside the home. Meals eaten out or takeaways can contain twice as many calories as meals bought in a shop.

Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said:

‘It is crucial that we all have access to the information we need to maintain a healthier weight, and this starts with knowing how calorific our food is. We are used to knowing this when we are shopping in the supermarket, but this isn’t the case when we eat out or get a take-away.

As part of our efforts to tackle disparities and level up the nation’s health, these measures are an important building block to making it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices.’

This calorie labelling legislation will be followed in October by new rules on how and where foods high in fat, sugar and salt can be displayed in shops, and restrictions on advertising of these same foods before 9 pm.

 

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New calorie labelling rules come into force to improve nation’s health