Welsh government launches consultation on mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants

23 June 2022 by
Welsh government launches consultation on mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants

The Welsh government is proposing to introduce mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and pubs.

It outlined its plans in the consultation documentHealthy Food Environment as part of a 10-year strategy to prevent and reduce obesity across Wales.

The consultation said that food eaten outside of the home makes up 20% to 25% of adult calorie intake and that eating out frequently, including buying takeaway meals, contributes to an overconsumption of calories.

"A further issue with restaurant and takeaway food is that customers tend to underestimate the number of calories in large portions and calorie dense meals," the document said.

"Portions of food or drink eaten out or as takeaway meals typically contain twice as many calories as their equivalent bought in a shop."

Wales is said to have experienced a 48% rise in fast food outlets from 2010 to 2018, ahead of the UK average increase of 34%, followed by coffee shops and restaurants which each have around 13% of the market.

The plan is to focus on calorie labelling at point of choice, without including additional information on nutrients. Online sales of restaurant food would also have to display details of calorie content.

The document also outlined plans to restrict the service of soft sugary drinks by preventing free refills and reducing the size of drinks.

A report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2015 found that consuming sugary drinks led to unhealthy weight gain in children and young people and was linked with a greater risk of tooth decay, with 28% of children suffering from tooth decay by the time they turn five.

It is proposed that calorie labelling and restrictions on the sale of sugary drinks would be introduced to all size of restaurants, cafes, takeaways and other caterers in Wales, as well as workplaces, hospitals (excluding in-patient food), prisons, supermarket cafes, train and bus station cafes, but not in schools, colleges and entertainment venues.

"We are not proposing an exemption for small or medium businesses given the proportion of the market these make up in Wales," said the document. Over 75% of the 8,500 food catering business units in Wales in 2019 had less than 10 employees.

Calorie labelling in hospitality business in England with more than 250 employees became compulsory on 6 April, while Scotland is currently in the middle of a consultation process to add the number of calories to menus in cafes, restaurants and takeaways.

David Chapman, executive director for UKHospitality, Wales, urged hospitality businesses to engage in the consultations.

"Following the recent introduction of calorie labelling in England, and ongoing consultation in Scotland, it is important that the Welsh Government hears views from businesses on the impact such a scheme will have on them and their customers.

"Initial experience from England suggests that some unintended consequences have arisen, for example people with eating disorders becoming uncomfortable visiting hospitality premises, and waste caused from constantly evolving menus – and learnings should be taken from this.

"Our businesses are still very fragile as they strive to rebuild after the pandemic - they need time to recover, and if a scheme is introduced it must be consistent across the whole of the UK to prevent further burdens and costs on the sector".

The Welsh consultation, which runs until 1 September, has invited members of the public, industry and key stakeholders to contribute to the debate. A consultation response will be published in autumn 2022.

Image: RawPixel / Shutterstock

TagsWales and Calories
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