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Government anti-obesity campaign proposes mandatory calorie labelling

calorie count on menus

In its campaign to cut childhood obesity by half by 2030, the UK Government is considering a mandatory calorie labelling law on menus in restaurants, cafés and takeaways.

The proposal also calls for a ban on junk food TV advertising before 9pm and a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under sixteen. Along with this, preventing stores from displaying unhealthy foods at checkouts and including it in ‘buy one get one free’ deals is also on the agenda, as is a ban on unlimited refills of unhealthy food and drinks.

The proposal has drawn criticism from health campaigners, who were hoping for stricter regulations, but many in the food industry disagree. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said, “The introduction of mandatory menu calorie labelling would represent a significant burden for businesses, particularly smaller operators.”

She continued: “It would impose a serious additional cost for many businesses facing tightening margins, increased operating costs and wider economic instability. Furthermore, it would hamper venues’ endeavours to incorporate seasonal ingredients and ‘specials’ to attract custom, as well as restricting smaller restaurants’ ability to innovate, particularly when tackling food waste.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt explained that the government may allow small restaurants to be exempt from the calorie count regulation, but “all the big chains that we go to, they must give people that information”.

With regards to the removal of unhealthy foods displayed near checkouts, the British Retail Consortium said the proposal, “needs to be based on clear evidence it will reduce childhood obesity and will need to be mandatory to ensure consumers see a consistent approach and more progressive retailers are not penalised commercially”.

Hunt explained that parents have been asking for help, stating that, “Over three-quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying. It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices and to make their life easier in doing so.”

The government plan to start talks on the legislation later this year.

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