The Government is expected to unveil a voluntary code encouraging restaurants to commit to displaying nutritional information including calorie counts for every dish ‘imminently', Caterersearch.com has learned.
The move comes out of the work by the ‘Food Network', one of five networks that make up the Government's ‘Responsibility Deal' which aims to involve businesses in making changes to Government policy, alongside ministers.
The initiative was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in March 2010. The food network, which aims to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers and fast food companies as well as catering giant Compass. The food network's sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.
It is not known at this stage which restaurant companies have so far signed up to the voluntary code on displaying calorie counts on menus.
A Department of Health spokeswoman told Caterersearch.com: "We are currently working to secure voluntary agreements from the food industry to commit to out-of-home food labelling in 2011 as part of the of the Responsibility Deal Food Network's work programme.
"The Food Network has been established to develop pledges for action to support people to eat a healthier diet. The scope of the Food Network's activity is wide-ranging, embracing four main areas: information to consumers; content of food; improving the food environment through better access; and promotion of healthier food choices.
"The network is currently working across its membership to agree the initial pledges that will form part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal on its launch early this year."
It is not the first time a Government agency has attempted to introduce the idea of displaying calorie counts on menus. Last year, the Food Standards Agency trialled a scheme in which 18 operators, including contract caterer Compass Group, fast food giant Burger King and chains including Pizza Hut and Pret A Manger, tested the idea of calorie labelling on menus.
But it emerged in July last year that of the companies involved, only five, including Eat, Subway, Pret A Manger and The Real Greek, have agreed to give a "forward, long-term commitment" to display calories in outlets.