Plans by the Department of Health to make calorie labelling mandatory on out-of-home menus have ignited a row with the Treasury over the cost to business.
The Telegraph reported this week that the Department of Health will soon publish a consultation to ensure there is consistent calorie labelling for restaurants, cafes, takeaways and online delivery services.
However, the paper cited a leaked letter from Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister and the Prime Minister's de-facto deputy, raising significant concerns about the cost of complying with the policy and, in particular, the burden on small and medium-sized businesses.
In a letter sent last month, Truss said: "I am concerned these proposals could result in job losses and higher food prices being passed on to consumers.” She estimated that the policy could cost businesses, including SMEs, up to £13m, an average of £500 each for 26,000 businesses per year, adding that costs may be particularly burdensome to micro and small businesses which frequently change their menus to offer seasonal local foods.
Truss suggested that the Treasury could ultimately block the policy following the consultation.
Mandatory calorie labelling was one of the headline new policies set out in the government’s updated childhood obesity strategy published in June.
Although a number of foodservice operators, such as Wetherspoons and Pizza Express, already display calorie counts voluntarily the majority of out-of-home businesses do not.