Scotland gives green light to calorie labels

Mandatory calorie labelling on menus in Scotland has moved a step closer after the government made it a key proposal in a new plan for the out of home sector.

Published this week, the Out of Home Action Plan outlines how the Scottish Government plans to work with the food industry to help tackle obesity by providing healthier food and drink choices.

Labelling on menus to show how many calories are in food is a key part of the new plan, which also includes proposals for a code of practice for healthier children’s menus.

The government said that the covid-19 pandemic had shown the importance of a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight, adding that nutrition information is often not available for food and drink bought from cafés, restaurants, takeaways and other outlets.

“We know that by giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals, empowers people to make healthier decisions when eating out, or ordering in,” said public health minister Maree Todd. “This plan proposes bold measures on how we can work with the food industry to create sustainable change to reduce harm to people’s health caused by poor diet and excess weight.”

As part of the action plan, which will be subject to a public consultation, Public Health Scotland and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) will engage with businesses to develop a new Eating Out, Eating Well Framework to help outlets provide healthier foods, including a new a code of practice for children’s menus.

The government plans to explore how best to secure maximum take-up across the public sector and recognise food outlets that adopt the framework or code of practice.

FSS will work with stakeholders to develop detailed proposals for mandatory calorie labelling at the point of choice, including menus and online for out of home food outlets in Scotland.

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said hospitality businesses would continue to play their part in the healthy eating agenda. “However, as the Scottish Government acknowledges, this is a complex issue which governments and health bodies have been grappling with for decades. Labelling has been available on all food products bought in supermarkets and other food retail outlets for a very long time. This is where the bulk of food consumed is purchased and yet the challenges remain,” said Thompson.

In England, calorie labels on out of home menus will become mandatory from 2022.

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