Calorie counts to be added to Australian restaurant menus?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th January 2009

Australian restaurants could soon be forced to follow some of their American counterparts by posting calorie counts on menus.

The Preventative Health Taskforce, set up to provide recommendations to the Federal Government on health policy going forward, is contemplating a number of labelling approaches. The Taskforce is to submit the ‘National Preventative Health Strategy’ to the Department of Health and Ageing in June this year, with many potential changes affecting all in the food industry.

Restaurant menu

Chairman of the Taskforce, Professor Rob Moodie, reported that the group is currently considering the need for calorie counts on restaurant and take-away chain menus.

“This is something that would be considered in the mix … but we need to work out what the best form of labelling is, the clearest form for the consumer,” he told The Age.

The menu labelling guidelines would be a part of their attempts to reshape consumer demand toward healthier products. This plan may also include the introduction of standardised serving sizes. In the technical paper on tackling obesity the taskforce advised that they plan to: “Enhance food labelling by introducing a national system of food labelling to support healthier choices, with simple and comprehensible information on trans fat and saturated fat as well as sugar and salt and standardised serve size. This would apply to food for retail sale as well as on food purchased when eating out, and be available in settings such as restaurants, food halls and takeaway shops.”

Legislation for calorie counts on menus has already been approved in New York City and the state of California, with more US states likely to follow suit. In fact, a campaign was launched last week to pass national legislation that will provide consumers across America with detailed nutrition information in chain restaurants and other food service establishments using a uniform standard. Industry body, the National Restaurant Association, is supporting the campaign to provide consumers with a broad range of nutrition information including sodium, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, sugars, proteins as well as calories to “help them make decisions that are conducive to their lifestyles.”