Recent efforts to address the growing obesity crisis in the UK have led to government-mandated calorie labelling for menus and food labels in large businesses.

This change is an important step in the effort to slow the obesity epidemic but brings with it important adjustments for businesses and patrons alike. While this approval was approved in May of 2021 and has just been enacted as recent legislation, understanding many of the considerations relative to this new government protocol will ensure proper compliance and customer satisfaction. 

What Does This New Law Mean

As of April 6, 2022, any establishment that prepares food considered out-of-home is required to provide calorie labelling. In summary, this new law will require the display of calorie information by all affected food preparation venues where customers will order and select food from.

Essentially, this change will impact large restaurants, cafes, and takeaways that provide out-of-home meal preparation. Other venues include catering services for educational institutions, military institutions and hospitals.

Woman Drinking In A Cafe

Foods that aren’t included for calorie labelling include foods that are only offered 30 days or less out of the year, alcohol that is more than 1.2% alcohol by volume, produce, and meats and cheese sold separately.

Why Has The Change Been Made?

The government has made this change to target the growing obesity crisis in the United Kingdom. Estimates suggest that obesity costs roughly £58 billion in collective costs, including lost productivity, decreased quality of life, increased medical costs and increased social care.

Surveys in 2018 indicated that 90% of participants agreed with government intervention to improve the health and quality of food, with 79% of participants in more recent polls expressing that foods purchased in the out-of-home sector should include calorie labelling.

Does This Apply To Every Business?

Requiring calorie labelling only affects businesses with 250 or more employees. Small or independent food preparers will not be required to display any calorie labelling on their products. Still, franchises are considered part of the total franchisor and will be required to present calorie information.

Similarly, charitable organisations and institutions serving children under the age of 18 are not required to provide calorie information. While there are 7,685 businesses with 250 or more employees, the inclusion of catering services for various institutions will ensure a broad range of out-of-home food preparers fall within the compliance scope of this regulation.

What Happens If I Don’t Comply

As a preliminary measure, government regulators are encouraging local authorities to first address those who are non-compliant in person rather than immediately issue a citation. If non-criminal intervention is unsuccessful, an improvement notice may be given to the offending enterprise requiring an amendment of all calorie labelling.

Eating Healthier Food

Failure to comply with the new regulation could result in a fine of £2,500 if found guilty of an offence or a criminal prosecution pending the judgment pending the determination of the enforcing authority.

Where Do I Need To Show This Information?

The new calorie information needs to be shown on all media that customers interact with, including online menus, physical menus, food labels and food delivery platforms. The labelling must include the kilocalories relative to the portion of the food being purchased and the statement that adults need about 2,000 kilocalories a day.

What Are The Opinions Of This Change?

Opinions on the recent legislation to provide calorie information range from approving to ambivalent. Supporters of calorie labelling cite that calorie labelling makes dining out much healthier when you know the caloric values of prepared foods.

Similarly, many suffer from obesity-influenced diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, and feel that having visible calorie information will help consumers to make more informed choices. For those battling weight loss, knowing the caloric information of prepared foods can prevent overconsumption and improve weight loss efforts.

Some have expressed ambivalence over the overall effectiveness of the calorie labelling regulations. Some restauranteurs have expressed a willingness to comply and note that calories are only a tiny portion of what is consumed in food. Omitting information on fibre, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals found in food may lead consumers to overlook the importance of these components when eating.

Lower Calorie Foods

Likewise, given that many establishments allow diners to mix and match components when assembling a meal, the need to label every component and calculate how many calories would be consumed may prove too complicated or costly for diners and dining establishments alike.

What Does The Future Hold For Calorie Labelling?

Regulations to promote healthier consumption through calorie labelling are in its infancy, with reactions spanning the spectrum from approval to dissatisfaction. The degree of compliance and the degree of effectiveness remains to be seen, with more time needed to evaluate whether more specificity or more comprehensiveness is required. Given how impactful obesity is on the health and welfare of the UK population, calorie labelling and similar efforts are a step in the right direction.

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