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Treasury opposes mandatory calorie-labelling policy

Coffee shop menu

The Treasury have announced their opposition to a calorie-labelling policy currently being pushed by the Department of Health.

The health department want to make the policy mandatory for all food establishments, but the Treasury oppose the inclusion of small independent cafes and restaurants in the regulation. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss said that the policy would be a burden on small businesses due to costs involved.

It is estimated that calculating the exact calorie content of each dish and the subsequent reprinting of menus could cost food businesses over £500. This could result in financial difficulties for small businesses, who may have to lay off staff and/or be unable to make any menu changes in future.

With the issue of food waste on the rise, many small food businesses have procedures in place to reduce the amount of food that they send to landfill. The most effective method for most is to regularly change their menu offerings to make use of local products in season and off-cuts of meat or vegetables to create extra dishes. A mandatory calorie-labelling policy would prevent this flexibility for small businesses.

Further opposition

UKHospitality, the trade body for the UK hospitality sector, have also shown opposition to the policy. Chief executive Kate Nicholls warned that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy would cause disparate difficulties for SMEs and could result in an increase in price for consumers purchasing food from outlets who need to earn back the cost of their calorie labelling.

Many large chain restaurants and takeaways, such as Wetherspoon and McDonalds, already print the calorie content of some or all of the dishes on their menus. However, due to the nature and size of these businesses, this may pose less of a risk to long term customer numbers and profits than it would for small independents.

Another organisation opposing the policy is Beat, a charity that supports people suffering from eating disorders. Beat state that calories are not an adequate measure of the nutritional benefits of food and therefore the health of an individual consuming them.

Chief executive Andrew Radford said, “Evidence shows that calorie labelling exacerbates eating disorders of all kinds. Public health campaigns need to consider people's mental health as well as their physical health. They must move away from obesity shaming to emphasising healthy behavioural changes and instilling confidence into people.”

The call for the mandatory labelling of calories comes as part of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, which aims to reduce childhood obesity by 2030. Regulations already in place include the sugar levy on soft drinks and a new focus on the Healthy Start Scheme.

Your opinion

Let us know how you feel about the policy for a mandatory calorie-labelling regulation.

Send a tweet to @NCASS_UK

You can also fill in the Department of Health & Social Care survey here.

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