Calorie Inclusion On Menus Draws Criticism

Calorie Inclusion On Menus

On April 6th, the government announced that new calorie labelling rules would now be enforced for large businesses, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, with such enterprises expected to display calorie information on menus and food labels.

The plans form part of the government’s commitments to drive improvements in the nation’s health, with smaller businesses also being encouraged to adopt the calorie labelling strategy in a bid to tackle obesity levels.

Calorie information will now be displayed on menus, online menus, food labels, food delivery platforms and third party apps, with daily recommended calorie needs included, as well.

Maggie Throup, public health minister, said: “It is crucial that we all have access to the information we need to maintain a healthier weight, and this starts with knowing how calorific our food is. We are used to knowing this when we are shopping in the supermarket, but this isn’t the case when we eat out or get a takeaway.

“As part of our efforts to tackle disparities and level up the nation’s health, these measures are an important building block to making it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices.”

However, the mandatory move has come under fire from some quarters, including the UK eating disorder charity Beat, which expressed its extreme disappointment at the development, explaining that it will likely cause distress and anxiety for those with eating disorders.

Speaking to the Independent, Tom Quinn – director of external affairs with the organisation – said that calorie labelling on menus can lead to harmful thoughts related to eating disorders, as well as exacerbating behaviours.

For example, it could “increase a fixation on restricting calories for those with anorexia or bulimia, or increase feelings of guilt for those with binge eating disorders,” he said.

Mr Quinn went on to note that there is also currently limited evidence to suggest that including calories on menus would change the general population’s eating habits.

A recent British Medical Journal study, featuring US-based restaurant chains, found that the strategy led to a decrease of four per cent in the average amount of calories being consumed. And, one year later, this drop had entirely diminished.

Further comments on the matter were made by dietician Renee McGregor, who specialises in eating disorders. She explained to the news source that by focusing on calories, we fail to learn how to eat properly. For example, you may decide to eat a croissant because it has fewer calories but it isn’t as satisfying, so you’re more likely to snack later on.

But opting for something like eggs and avocado on toast, which may have more calories but also gives you dietary necessities such as carbohydrates, essential fats and protein, is the better nutritional choice.

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Published: 13 April 2022