Mandatory calorie labelling ‘slap in the face’ to hospitality

UKHospitality CEO, Kate Nicholls, has warned the costs of the implementation of mandatory calorie labelling on menus will be a “slap in the face” for hospitality, after the government revealed a series of measures to target obesity.

The measures form part of the government’s new obesity strategy to get the nation fit and healthy, protect themselves against Covid-19 and protect the NHS.

These include a ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm; end of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar and fat; a new campaign to help people lose weight and calories to be displayed on menus to “help people make healthier choices” when eating out – while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list “hidden liquid calories”.

Prime minister Boris Johnson, said: “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier. If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.”

However, Nicholls has warned that the implementation of calorie labelling “could cost as much as £40,000” for some hospitality business and combined with the pressures of Covid-19 the costs “could not come at a worst time”.

She said: “Millions of Britons have rediscovered the joy of cooking from scratch during lockdown, a trend that has been rightly and roundly applauded. We should embrace this by embedding more nutritional education in schools.

“Cooking from scratch is what restaurants do every day, and it’s how many of them manage to keep their offers attractive, with changing daily specials and locally-sourced seasonal dishes. Menu labelling could cost as much as £40,000 per menu run for some businesses, disincentivising such innovative and sustainable approaches, and stifling the efforts to offer exciting and healthy meals to customers.”

She added that a “well-intentioned” targeting of child obesity is at risk of evolving into an “interventionist approach that heaps burdens” on hospitality businesses just “when they are at their most vulnerable and fighting for survival”.

She continued: “The sector is keen to play an active and positive role in helping to deliver and support initiatives in schools, to better communicate the benefits of healthy cooking and eating – there is simply no question that education has an enormous role to play in reducing obesity in the long term.

“We are genuinely keen to work with Government to address obesity but the extra regulatory and cost burdens of measures like menu labelling could not come at a worse time. Hospitality has played its part in lockdown, feeding and accommodating vulnerable people and key workers. Now, as we focus on securing jobs and helping the economy and communities to recover, a raft of costs and regulatory burdens would be a slap in the face.”

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