The spectre of UK restaurateurs and caterers being forced to display nutritional values on menus moved a step closer this week when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) threw its weight behind the idea.
The FSA's statement followed confirmation last week that a compulsory labelling policy would be implemented in New York. A federal court judge rejected industry opposition to legislation under which any restaurant chain with 15 or more outlets in the city must display calorie contents on menus, menu boards or food tags.
The New York State Restaurant Association had opposed the regulations, warning that they would cause "irreparable harm" to operators. More than 2,000 restaurants - about 10% of New York's eateries - will be affected by the legislation, which is designed to combat obesity.
A spokesman for the FSA said that while there were no plans to launch such measures in the UK at this stage, the organisation would support them. "We would support anything which makes it easier for customers to enjoy healthier options when eating out of the home," he said. "Providing clear labelling information is certainly one way of doing this."
However, the spokesman added that variations would need to be taken into consideration.
"Huge variation in aspects such as cuisine, customer expectations and kitchen practices needs to be taken into account when looking at what effective measures could be put in place to encourage the provision of healthier food in restaurants," he said.
Andrew Etherington, managing director of food service consultancy Andrew Etherington Associates, said a compulsory labelling scheme would be completely unworkable.
"Such legislation would force even more red tape on to restaurateurs," he said.
"Having to label and analyse absolutely everything is extremely onerous and not something I would want to see in the UK."
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By Kerstin Kühn
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