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Calorie Labelling on Menus - Helpful or Harmful?

Starting from the 6th of April, all restaurants in the UK that employ more than 250 people will be required to place calorie information on their menus. This is part of a new government initiative to help combat obesity.

However, critics argue that this measure is ineffective and may even do more harm than good. They point out that most people don't make decisions about what to eat based on calorie counts, and that for those who do have eating disorders, this kind of information can be triggering.

What's more, with the UK's out of home dining sector just beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this could potentially derail progress.

In this article we're going to cover;

- Why the legislation was introduced

- What data supports the legislation

- Potential for harm for vulnerable groups and sector recovery

- My personal opinion

Why did the UK introduce mandatory calorie labelling on restaurant menus?

It is believed that the NHS is crippled by obesity with government and independent organisations estimating that it costs the nhs between £5 to £6.5 billion per year to treat obesity.

These figures are contentious (as are the claims that obesity is "crippling" the NHS, albeit I'm very much on the side of large scale changes being made to address the issue) but, at the very least, provide some rationale for why calorie labelling is being introduced.

The government's published impact assessment document states "Children and adults are consuming too many calories. Eating out accounts for a significant proportion of people’s energy intake. When eating out, however, there is limited access to energy information making it difficult for consumers to identify healthier options for themselves and their families. Ensuring this information is available will allow consumers to make informed choices, supporting Government policies to reduce childhood obesity."

Let's address some of those claims shall we?

Is the change to introduce calorie labelling justified?

We'll answer this question in two ways;

- Addressing the claims in the government's impact assessment document

- Looking at the effecti