Prominent brands to showcase calorie information on menus in UK

Posted by Editorial on 7th April 2009

Eighteen major catering companies, including many high street fast-food brands, will introduce calorie information on their menus for the first time.

The list of trailblazers, announced overnight by UK Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo and the Food Standards Agency, will start displaying calorie information from the end of April. The list includes workplace caterers, sit down and quick-service restaurants, theme parks and leisure attractions, pub restaurants, cafes and sandwich chains.

Companies involved include a number of well-known high street names and several major contract caterers:

* Burger King
* Compass Group UK and Ireland – in a number of Royal Mail staff restaurants
* The Co-operative Expresso cafes
* ISS Mediclean – in a number of London hospital restaurants
* Marks & Spencer cafes
* Chessington World of Adventures and Zoo, operated by Merlin Entertainments
* Harvester restaurants and Scream pubs, operated by Mitchells & Butlers
* Pizza Hut
* Pret A Manger
* Sainsbury’s cafes
* Sodexo – in a number of client restaurants in its corporate and defence sectors
* Subway
* Tesco staff restaurants
* Unilever staff restaurants (in partnership with Sodexo)
* Waitrose Cafes
* Wimpy
* 7 Day Catering – in college restaurants

By June, more than 450 food outlets across the country will have introduced calorie information – some of these will be on a pilot basis. Each company has agreed to:

* display calorie information for most food and drink they serve
* print calorie information on menu boards, paper menus or on the edge of shelves
* ensure the information is clear and easily visible at the point where people choose their food.

Making calorie information available at the point of choice is the first and simplest step, which will lead to more clarity for people when eating out, Ms Primarolo said.

“We know that people want to be able to see how many calories are in the food and drink they order when they eat out,” she advised. “I want to see more catering companies join this ground-breaking first group to help their customers make healthier choices.”

Independent research will assess how easily customers understand and use the system and gather feedback from the restaurants themselves to look at practical issues and the costs involved in providing the information. Gathering this data will inform the next steps for a wider roll-out of calorie labelling on menus.

Research published by the Food Standards Agency last year showed that consumers would welcome simple, clear and visible nutrition information when eating out. This research followed a survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency in June 2008 that suggested 85% of consumers agreed that restaurants, pubs and cafes have a responsibility to make clear what is in the food they serve. More than 80% of respondents said that nutrition information would be most useful if provided at the point they choose to order food, such as on menus or menu boards.

Calorie counts on menus were first seen in the US when New York City introduced laws to make them compulsory for chain restaurants. California has since followed suit and the National Restaurant Association is supporting a push for national legislation. In Australia, there is no such legislation but it is anticipated that one of the recommendations from the Preventative Health Taskforce* will be the introduction of similar laws to that seen in New York.

* The Preventative Health Taskforce was set-up to provide recommendations to guide the Federal Government’s health policy. They are due to report their findings in June.