Calorie labelling won’t work, BBPA tells government

Mandatory calorie labelling for the out-of-home sector will “do very little to change consumer behaviour”, the British Beer & Pub Association has argued.

Responding to the Department for Health and Social Care consultation on the proposal, the BBPA said a mandatory scheme would be extremely costly, resulting in reduced menu choices for customers. It would also “disproportionately affect smaller pubs that will struggle to implement the proposed changes”.

Feedback from BBPA members suggested 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. The additional burden could also force some to cut back on their menus, the association claimed.

When the consultation was launched in the autumn, the Telegraph reported that the chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, had calculated that small businesses would have to pay £500 each to have their menus analysed. It’s not clear where that figure came from, but UKHospitality has also warned of the “considerable burdens” the idea could place on small businesses.

There is also little evidence to suggest that calorie labels on menus would shift behaviour – though drawing conclusions is difficult because there are few schemes up and running. An analysis of current evidence was recently published and the authors “tentatively suggest” the approach is worth a try, but as part of a wider strategy to tackle obesity.

Polls show support for the idea. In April, Diabetes UK said 71% of diners told them they did not have enough information about what was in their food. Almost three-quarters (73%) wanted all cafés, restaurants and takeaways to use traffic-light labelling on their products and menus, the survey found; Public Health England research puts the figure at 79%.

“Calorie labelling will be prohibitively expensive for the sector,” said Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive. “Many pubs already voluntarily choose to provide information about the food they serve to help customers seeking to make healthy choices.”

The government consultation has now closed and officials are analysing all the feedback.

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