The Department for Health and Social Care's proposed changes on mandatory calorie labelling for the out-of-home sector will be "hugely detrimental for pubs", the British Beer & Pub Association has warned.
The BBPA has argued that the department's plan will prove extremely costly and will disproportionally affect smaller pubs struggling to implement the proposed changes. It is also believed that the proposed changes will result in smaller menu choices and reduced competition in the sector.
The government's consultation on calorie labelling, which is calling for responses from across the hospitality sector, closes at 11:59pm on 7 December.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "Mandatory calorie labelling will be hugely detrimental for pubs and we would urge DHSC to look at more collaborative ways to work with the sector instead."
"Many pubs already voluntarily choose to provide information about the food they serve to help customers seeking to make healthy choices. The overwhelming evidence suggests that forcing pubs to display calorie content would have no tangible impact on behaviour."
Feedback from BBPA members suggests the cost to determine calorie values for menu items would be far too high for pubs, the vast majority of which operate as small businesses. Licensees and pub operators already face cost pressures elsewhere from beer duty, business rates, VAT and staffing costs, which has seen smaller pubs disproportionately close.
Simmonds added: "Our great British pubs are iconic and at the heart of communities across the UK. We should be helping, not hindering, pubs. DHSC should consider collaborative ways of working with the sector to help consumers who wish to make healthier food choices. However, should mandatory measures be imposed we would urge exemptions for smaller businesses such as pubs."
Written by Helen Salter