From today, some restaurants, cafes and takeaways across the UK are legally required to add calorie counts next to dishes on their menus as new legislation on calorie labelling comes into force.
Designed as part of a move to stem a rise in obesity, the government’s decision to impose calorie counting on menus has been criticised by a number of restauranteurs, chefs and food critics as the new labelling legislation comes into force for those with over 250 employees today.
The move has also lead to criticism from Greater Manchester MasterChef winner Simon Wood.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, the Oldham-based chef said that although the rules currently don’t apply to his business he wouldn’t consider following suit unless his hand was forced.
“Until I”m forced to do it I wouldn’t do it and even then I think it’s a really difficult thing to do with seasonality and menu changes and cooking with what’s available.
“I don’t think calories are overly relevant in certain situations. if you exercise regularly you take more calories, which means your daily intake changes […] that’s very different for everyone,” he explained.
“I wouldn’t change what I’m doing. We’re a destination restaurant. You’re there to have a good time […] it is one of those occasions where you probably will have more calories, but it’s about balance and moderation and that’s the key thing here. Moderation is really important.”
Currently, the requirements only apply to larger restaurant, takeaway and cafe businesses, defined as those with more than 250 employees.
However, if a menu changes after 30 days then businesses do not have to redesign and print it.
Some large eateries, such as Wetherspoons, The Real Greek and McDonald’s, have included calorie information on their menus for some time but now, as of today, labelling will be mandatory for large chains.
The news has caused concern amongst campaigners for those with eating disorders, as well as more broadly amongst those in the hospitality and nutrition industries – many of whom argue that putting a number on a menu is simply not as effective as proper education about what you are putting into your body.
Speaking in favour of food education and nutrition education, Wood added that “‘wonderful, healthy ingredients are far more pertinent things to be looking at” before taking aim at food delivery apps.
“I think that apps you can order fast food delivery on are a real issue. You can do that at 12 years old if you’ve got a smartphone. That’s the kind of thing we should be looking at stopping, in my opinion.”
Speaking more practically, he also pointed to the ongoing supply chain issues in hospitality and laid out how commonplace issues like this will have a knock-on effect on how reliable these numbers are too.
“Sometimes given the current situation with hospitality and the supply chain things aren’t there, you have to adapt your menu on the fly, what are you going to do? Rewrite it every day?
“What if things don’t turn up? What if you’re making a sauce and you need four bottles of wine but you’ve only got two? What if someone adds too much salt, sodium, things like that that aren’t considered in calories, I think there’s a bigger approach to what people should be looking at than just a number.”
Wood is not the only person to raise concerns about the move, with his comments around education being echoed by The Telegraph restaurant critic William Sitwell.
Sitwell, admittedly, went further, proclaiming on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning: “We’re facing calorie police marching into restaurants demanding to see these menus.”
“It’s a terrible idea, […] it demonises calories, we need calories to live, it doesn’t tell us any other information, you know, fibre, what we need to know is where food comes from, we need the government to focus on education.”
“Imagine these poor businesses today, recovering from the pandemic, having to go through this administrative nightmare of sending every single dish on their menu off to be tested. it destroys creativity, ok there are exemptions for specials but, you know, think of a young chef trying to think of some leftover ideas and suddenly they’ve got to get it tested.”
Kate Nicholls, CEO of the trade body UK Hospitality, also criticised the move – saying that the new rules came at the “worst possible time for thousands of businesses struggling to survive”.
“We’ve long called for a delay to the implementation of calorie labelling, and we’d like to see a grace period post-April to allow businesses breathing space in which to implement the new rules without the risk of unnecessary enforcement action from day one,” she said.
“It’s completely unfair to expect businesses devastated by Covid to all of a sudden introduce complicated and costly new labelling when they’ve much more pressing matters to attend to – recouping their losses of the past 24-months for a start.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has said that obesity is one of the biggest health issues being faced in the UK today, and claims that food labelling plays an important role in helping people to make healthier choices.
A spokesperson added people were ‘used to seeing nutritional information on products sold in supermarkets’ and that the governments’ policy has been informed by extensive research conducted with mental health charities and expres, reports the BBC.
Feature image – Simon Wood
Warning after terrifying video shows party decorations catching fire in a Manchester bar – again
Fire crews in Greater Manchester are warning bars and restaurants to be careful after footage emerged of party decorations catching fire above customers’ heads.
In just seconds, the entire ceiling is ablaze, with terrified customers scrambling for the exit.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service released the video in a bid to raise awareness and prevent any similar incidents at hospitality venues in the city-region.
The shocking incident occurred in a shisha bar in Rusholme, in May this year.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but several people were taken to hospital with suspected burns.
In both this instance and in the One Eight Six incident, the cause of the blaze was determined as being ‘indoor fireworks igniting decorations, which then burned rapidly allowing the fire to spread’.
GMFRS is now working with licensing teams from the 10 councils in Greater Manchester to offer free information and advice sessions to owners and managers of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants in advance of the Halloween, World Cup and the Christmas party season.
Leon Parkes, GMFRS’s director of prevention and protection, said: “Hospitality venues have a responsibility to keep their customers and staff safe and at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service we want to help businesses to understand their legal responsibilities and take action to protect their property, staff and customers from fire.
“We have seen a couple of instances in the past year in Manchester where fires have broken out in venues caused by indoor fireworks setting light to decorations.
“While fortunately fires don’t occur very often, the impact of a fire can be devastating and many businesses don’t recover.
“Pubs, bars and other venues will be very, very busy during October, November and December. It’s important that staff prepare by getting trained in what they need to do and that they don’t inadvertently create a fire risk.
“We know that the last two years have been really difficult for hospitality businesses and hopefully the forthcoming World Cup and Christmas period will be a boost for them. We gave out fire safety advice in May last year as Covid-19 restrictions eased and we are now working with our partners to help hospitality businesses be safe and stay safe.”
‘Significant risk’ of UK gas shortages this winter, regulator warns
Energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK faces a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter.
According to reports in The Times, the regulator has unveiled concerns that the country could face blackouts over the coming months thanks to an undersupply of gas to Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Warning that a “gas supply emergency” could be looming ahead, the energy regulator has said that some gas-fired power plants could see their supplies cut off, which in turn would stop generators from producing electricity.
The alert comes just days before an expected update from the National Grid on the likelihood of countrywide power cuts this winter.
Responsing to arequest from SSE, which owns several gas power stations, Ofgem outlined what is set to be a huge issue of concern given that the UK relies on large gas plants to produce the biggest share of its electricity supply.
The regulator also pointed to rules that could see power plants penalised as a result of shortages, warning of a worst-case scenario that would see the “potential insolvency of gas-fired generators” caused by rules that require plants to pay huge charges if they fail to deliver on promised quotas.
Adding that the issue must be addressed to prevent a “significant impact on the safety and security of the electricity and/or gas systems”, the regulator echoed concerns now widespread in Europe as its comments followed a similar statement made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this morning.
Europeans are already being told they must lower their thermostats and boilers in preparation in case gas supplies are cut off, with Paris-based agency IEA warning today that the EU must focus on getting underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in case of a complete Russian supply shut-off.
Preparation are already being made in Europe with the German government having approved a set of energy-saving measures for the winter to limit use in public buildings. In France, meanwhile, companies have already been warned they may face energy rationing this winter.
Whilst the UK government is yet to announce any energey saving measures, Ofgem has said that it expect s“this winter to be more challenging than last year” and that it is taking “reasonable regulatory steps to mitigate and reduce the risks”.