Proposals to include calorie counts on menus
HOTELIERS and restauranteurs have hit out at proposals to introduce calorie counts on menus, saying the measure would be too costly and impractical to implement.
While calorie counts might be possible for menus which don't change daily, such as those in fast food restaurants, the owners of other types of establishments which offer varied menus or choices of accompaniments, say calorie counts would be very hard to determine on a daily basis.
Their comments came after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland published the findings of its national consultation on displaying calories on menus in Ireland.
The report was launched by Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly, who said he had prioritised calorie posting on menus as one of the key initiates that will have a positive impact in addressing the problem of rising levels of overweight and obesity, and as a means of educating the general public on the calorie content of food portions.
'It is a simple concept that will help consumers make healthier choices, eat smaller portions and enjoy food without over-eating,' he said. 'It is essential to recognise that a small, but sustained positive change in the eating behaviour of a large number of individuals can have a major effect on our obesity crisis and I strongly believe that calorie menu labelling offers this potential.'
The report recommends the introduction of a calorie menu labelling scheme for food service businesses. The report also recommends that the scheme should be operated on a voluntary basis initially to allow a period of time for the development of a system, including technical tools, to support the food service sector.
The FSAI's consultation, which was undertaken in February 2012, called for opinions on calorie on menu labelling and received over 3,300 submissions from consumers, food businesses, health professionals and other interested parties. Almost 80 per cent of responses (over 2,600) were from consumers.
The report's findings reveal an overwhelming demand by consumers (96 per cent) for calorie menu labelling in all or some food outlets, with 89 per cent saying that calories should be displayed beside the price of food and drink items on the menu. When asked whether calorie labelling should apply to outlets serving alcoholic drinks, 84 per cent of consumers said calorie labelling of alcoholic beverages should apply in all or some outlets.
Nearly three in four food service businesses ( 73 per cent) were in favour of calorie menu labelling in all or some food establishments. However, when considering the technical aspects of implementing such a scheme, the numbers of food businesses in favour of calorie menu labelling fell to just over 50 per cent. The main concerns food businesses have revolve around their lack of expertise to calculate calorie content of the food they sell, the potential cost, and the time involved in implementing calorie menu labelling.