Calories On Menus In Restaurant Chains

In a groundbreaking day in the food industry in England, restaurants, cafes and takeaway chains with more than 250 staff must detail the calories in their meals on all menus, websites and delivery platforms. The new rule comes as part of the government's continued push to tackle obesity, by helping people make healthier choices when ordering from some of the biggest chains in the country.

The change came into effect last week, on 6th April, and is applicable to non-prepacked food and soft drinks. Although new to many, several leading chains have already been sharing calories on their menus for some time including McDonalds, The Real Greek, KFC and also Wetherspoons. But for others the news has come as a big change.

thefoodpeople co-founder and director, Charles Banks commented on the news: "The 6th April was a momentous day for food. The government hopes this will encourage people to make healthier choices and nudge restaurants towards offering healthier options. Although it is not clear how this initiative will impact the obesity crisis, it's far more complex than calories on menus. In the US this came into force in 2018 and a recent study of the 60 biggest chains found that there had been no change in average calorie loading in menus.

"What this initiative will do is bring a level of standardisation to the information that is required to be shown in major food outlets meaning that those that are eating against a 'calorie agenda' can make a clear and positive choice, but is the level of education around calories in the composition in food where it needs for most people to make this choice? We'll see, but a low calorie count doesn't always mean a more nutritious meal. It's also fair to say that many chains have responded well ahead of this with many already publishing calories information and KFC as an example have put calories on menus for a number for years and have in fact committed to removing 20% of calories per serving by 2025. It's a divisive subject; is it a quick fix in an attempt to tackle a bigger societal issue where true collaborative 'food system thinking' is really required to make a sustained impact – only time will tell."

The news was condemned by some industry leaders. Masterchef winner Sven-Hanson Britt tweeted the change was a "terrible thing to happen to the hospitality industry", warning that the new regulation "could end creativity, spontaneity and lead to boring tick-box cooking".

"Kids will grow up in restaurants, hotels and cafes only looking at that little number below a dish. Choices will be made based on a number alone. The love of flavour, ingredients, history, cooking craft or nutrition will be lost and masked by a newly perceived focus," he added.

What do you think of the chance? We'd welcome your comments over on Twitter @thefoodpeople.