Calorie labelling could be extended to eating out in England


Child obesity and diabetes campaigners welcome announcement of consultation

Calorie labels for food and drink in restaurants, cafes and takeaways could be introduced after the government announced it would launch a public consultation on the matter.

The plans could see the number of calories listed alongside meal descriptions in outlets and online across England, although small businesses and street vendors could be exempt from the measure.

Child obesity and diabetes campaigners have welcome the announcement, describing the proposals as essential in combating type 2 diabetes in the UK.

Calorie labelling is already included on the packaging for food and drink bought in shops. Ministers hope extending the practice to restaurants and takeaways will allow the public to make healthier choices.

“Eating out has become the norm, meaning around a quarter of our calories come from food on the go, restaurants and takeaways,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England.

“Clear and visible information at the point of choice is important to help us understand what we are buying and to make healthier choices. This will help protect children from obesity and future ill-health.”

The plans are part of the government’s strategy to halve childhood obesity by 2030. The strategy includes a proposed ban on the sale of energy drinks to children and a consultation on whether a 9pm watershed should be imposed for junk food advertising.

Steve Brine, the public health minister, said: “Families want to know what they are eating when on the go, but in many cafes, restaurants and takeaways this information is not available.

“This is not about forcing anyone to eat certain things, or companies to behave in a certain way. But I firmly believe we have a right to know the nutritional content of the food we give to our children. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and is often both preventable and reversible. That’s why we are taking action through this consultation, and I would ask everyone to respond with their ideas on how we can make this work.”

The charity Diabetes UK supports the plans, and highlighted the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes. Obesity-related illnesses and conditions cost the NHS an estimated £6.1bn a year.

Helen Dickens, assistant campaigns director at Diabetes UK, said: “People living with diabetes and more than three-quarters of the British public have told us that they want more information about what’s in the food and drink they buy, to help make healthier choices – especially when they’re out and about. These bold, ambitious proposals from government are – if put into legislation – essential to making the healthy choice the easy choice for British consumers.

“The UK is facing a type 2 diabetes crisis. With around two-thirds of adults in the UK classed as overweight or obese, and therefore at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic health conditions, it’s really important that we have measures in place that make it easier for all of us to lead healthier lives.”

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