Government ditches menu calorie counts after just five months
In April calorie labelling on menus became a legal requirement for restaurant groups employing over 250 staff in the UK, but now the government could be looking to drop them altogether.
Under the orders of the Treasury, government ministers have ordered an official review of its anti-obesity strategy. As a result, menu calorie counts could now be scrapped as part of a ‘drive to cut red tape’, reports The Guardian.
First introduced on April 6, new rules currently require larger hospitality businesses to display calorie counts ‘clearly and prominently’ along with the statement ‘adults need around 2000kcal a day’.
But now a new review, described by Whitehall sources as “deregulatory in focus”, could see the policy ditched entirely, meaning many cafes, takeaways and restaurants thart have invested in printing new menus will now likely find them redundant.
When calorie labelling came into force, it was widely criticised by eating disorder charities, restauranteurs, chefs and food critics alike.
Then Public Health Minister Jo Churchill, said at the time: “Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families, both in restaurants and at home. That is why we want to make sure everyone has access to accurate information about the food and drink we order.
“These measures form an important building block in our strategy to support and encourage people in achieving and maintaining a healthier weight.”
Masterchef winner Simon Wood, who has a restaurant on First Street, appeared on TV the morning the legislation was introduced to speak out against it.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Oldham-based chef said that although the rules didn’t currently apply to him, he wouldn’t consider following suit unless forced.
He told viewers: “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.”
A week later, Manchester restaurant Dishoom made headlines for scribbling calories off its menu at a customer’s request. Soon after, it added a calorie free option.
Many others have since followed suit, suggesting the move to ditch calorie labelling could prove popular with business owners.
Read more: ‘Until I’m forced to do it, I wouldn’t’ says Simon Wood as calorie counts added to UK menus
However, the review may also look to ditch the 2018 sugar tax, a measure hailed by experts for helping to make soft drinks less unhealthy.
It is also likely to reverse bans on displaying sugary products at checkouts and multi-buy deals, as well as scrap restrictions on advertising before the 9pm watershed.
Health officials are said to be ‘aghast’ at the idea that the new Prime Minister could potentially scrap the new anti-obesity strategies, which were agreed upon and approved by parliament just this year.
The Obesity Health Alliance, a grouping of 50 health charities and medical organisations, has described it as “a kick in the teeth”.
“We are deeply concerned. It would be reckless to waste government and business time and money rowing back on these obesity policies, which are evidence-based and already in law. These policies are popular with the public, who want it to be easier to make healthier choices,” Katharine Jenner, the alliance’s director, told The Guardian.
Read more: Manchester restaurant Dishoom scribbles calories off menu at customer’s request
There has also been criticism of the move from within the Conservative party, with one Tory peer telling the paper: “Improving the nation’s health is one of the best ways we can increase productivity and workforce capacity and thereby drive growth. So I would be very surprised by any decisions that actually strive to make the UK less healthy.”
Liz Truss said in a recent newspaper interview: “Those taxes are over.
“Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.”
She added Brits “don’t want the government telling them what to eat”.
Feature image – Dishoom