Mandatory calorie labelling consultation launched

The Government has today launched a consultation (that will run until 7 December 2018) entitled “Mandating calorie labelling in the out-of-home sector” with a view to enforcing compulsory calorie labelling on restaurant menus and other hospitality businesses’ menus, including takeaways and online food and drink ordering websites.

In its “overview” introduction, the Government says:

Currently, nearly one in four children in England are obese or overweight by the time they start primary school, and this rises to one in three by the time they leave primary school.  Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, and obesity in adulthood increases an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and a number of cancers.

We know that it is regular overconsumption of a relatively small number of calories that leads to individuals becoming overweight or obese.  Research tells us that it is likely that eating out frequently, including eating takeaway meals, contributes to this gradual overconsumption of calories.

To make sure that people have access to clear and accurate information about the calorie content of the food and drink that they and their families are eating when dining out, we intend to introduce legislation to make calorie labelling compulsory in the out-of-home sector. This includes, for example, restaurants, cafes, pubs and takeaways, as well as online businesses that sell food or drink for takeaway or home delivery that is ready to be eaten or drunk.

Making this information available can help people to make informed and healthy choices for themselves and their families and regulate their energy intake and that of their children effectively. This will contribute to efforts to reduce rates of children being overweight and obese.

It goes on to say that “the effectiveness of making calorie labelling compulsory will rest on how well it is implemented, and especially on making sure that requirements are easy for businesses to understand and implement. Through this consultation we invite views on the details of what we are proposing, to help us make sure it works in practice”

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls has responded immediately saying:

The consultation does seem to acknowledge that there will be difficulties for some businesses, particularly smaller ones, to implement calorie labelling. UKHospitality has been very clear that any inflexible mandatory requirements will place considerable burdens on smaller businesses and those venues that change their menus regularly.

UKHospitality will be using the consultation as an opportunity to reiterate that point and highlight the efforts already being undertaken by the sector to provide transparency and choice.

At a time of economic and political uncertainty, and with costs continuing to rise for employers, the last thing businesses need is additional, unwieldy legislation. We will be making this point forcefully to the Government to ensure that any new rules are proportionate and take into account the challenges faced by SMEs.

As now seems to be the usual practice, the consultation takes the form of an online survey. In our experience, such surveys are difficult to navigate unless one provides answers as one progresses, which is not ideal without first having a complete understanding of what is being proposed, particularly as the survey asks those responding to add explanations of their answers.

In the hope that it will assist, we are setting out below each of the substantive questions that are posed in the consultation (with, where applicable, additional explanatory wording provided by the Government within the survey).

 

1  Do you think that calorie labelling should be mandatory for all out-of-home businesses?

  • By ‘out-of-home businesses’ we mean any establishment in which food and drink is prepared and sold so that it is ready to be eaten or drunk by the final consumer. This would include, for example, restaurants, take-away businesses (including those that operate online), fast food outlets, coffee shops, canteens, schools, hospitals and catering enterprises, as well as vehicles and fixed or mobile stalls and businesses that operate online.

2  Do you think that the calorie labelling requirement should apply to all food and drink items an out-of-home business offers?

  • We are proposing that the calorie labelling requirement would extend to all ready-to-eat food and drink items that an establishment offers, including sides, toppings and drinks, seasonal dishes and ‘specials’, as well as self-service items such as buffets, salad bars, sauces and dressings.

 3  Micro-businesses (those with fewer than 10 employees) may find this requirement harder to implement. Which of the following approaches do you most agree with?

  • Micro-businesses are covered by the requirement in the same way as other businesses
  • Micro-businesses are excluded from the requirement altogether
  • Micro-businesses are covered by the requirement, but given a longer implementation period (if choosing this option, please state how long you think the implementation period for micro-businesses should be)
  • Other (please provide details below)

4  As well as the number of calories per portion of the food item, do you think calorie labels should show that number as a proportion of the recommended daily intake?

5  Would you find it helpful or unhelpful for information on kilojoule content to be displayed alongside information about calorie content?

6  Is there any other interpretative information that you think should be displayed on calorie labels?

7  Do you think that calorie information should be displayed in establishments at the point of choice?

  • By ‘point of choice’ we mean the place in an establishment where prices are displayed and customers make their meal choices.

8  Would 12 months be an appropriate amount of time for businesses to implement calorie labelling?

9  Do you agree with the proposed approach for calculating the number of calories in a standard portion?

  • In order to calculate the calorie content of menu items, we propose that businesses would calculate the calorie content for what they consider to be a standard portion size for that menu item, as they serve it. The business should make it clear to the consumer what a standard portion of that item is. For example, a delicatessen serving take-away salads might give the calorie count for one scoop of a salad using a standard serving spoon, or for the amount of salad that fits in a certain size of container.

10  Do you agree with the proposed approach for businesses selling takeaway dishes through third parties?

  • We propose that, where a business sells takeaway dishes through a third party business, such as an online takeaway platform, the responsibility for calculating the calorie content of the food or drink rests with the business making and selling it, and responsibility for displaying the calorie information at the point of choice rests with the business through which the consumer buys the food or drink.

11  We will provide businesses with written guidance to help them with calorie labelling. Do you think businesses will need any additional support?

12  Do you think calorie labelling would cause any practical issues for particular businesses?

13  If you have any suggestions for how this requirement could be enforced in a way that is fair and not overly burdensome, please provide details 

 

The survey goes on to pose a number of further “impact assessment” and “equalities” questions. It also invites respondents to give details of any further matters that they would like to raise or any further information that they would like to provide in relation to the consultation.

You can access the online survey here.