The Government is urging hospitality businesses to sign up to the pledges in the Responsibility Deal in order to aid its push to tackle obesity, or face legislation requiring nutritional commitments.
Speaking at the launch of the British Hospitality Association's (BHA) report Health Works: A Look Inside Eating Out, Earl Howe, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Health, said that obesity costs the UK £16b a year. This figure is predicted to rise dramatically, hence the Government's desire to promote calorie information on menus, reduce salt and remove trans fats from dishes.
Howe said that as long as the industry volunteered to contribute to the programme there would be no need for legislation.
"Most of you will have heard of the Responsibility Deal for Public Health which is helping everyone make sure they promote a healthy and responsible relationship with food," he said. "What's particularly important about the deal is that it seeks to achieve those aims without the need for unwieldy and expensive legislation."
Howe welcomed the BHA's report, which outlines the contribution hospitality is making to promote healthier eating, but said the industry had further to go.
"We want to see more calorie information on menus," he said. "One in six meals is eaten outside the home and those meals are often less healthy than those we might eat at home.
"Clearer labelling for those meals may mean consumers are better informed and better able to make healthier choices. Not to promote a kind of puritanical mentality where people deny themselves the food they want because it has 15 calories too many but to give information to people about their options."
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim pointed out that of the 10,000 establishments in the report, 80% already offered healthy options. A further 60% had already eliminated trans fats, and 75% were committed to calorie counting on menus in the next 12 months.
"Hospitality is in the business of wellbeing and has already taken strides in embracing health throughout all aspects of the business - from the reduction of salt, sugar and elimination of trans fats to the increasing popularity of healthy option dishes, and to education of employees and consumers," Ibrahim said.
The Responsibility deal
The Responsibility Deal includes three main pledges for hospitality:
â- Commit to salt targets that include a 15% reduction on 2010 targets
â- Remove artificial trans fats from products by the end of 2011
What's the problem?
Almost a quarter of UK adults are obese, making Britain the fattest nation in Europe
â- In 2009, 28% of children (2-10 years) were overweight or obese
â- Weight problems are estimated to cost the wider economy around £16b, rising to £50b per year by 2050 if left unchecked
â- With intervention (diet and exercise) over five years the UK could make cost savings of £218b
By James Stagg
E-mail your comments to By James Stagg here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs