Calories on quick-service restaurant menus one step closer in UK

Posted by Isobel Drake on 4th December 2009

Menus with calorie information are one step closer to becoming a reality following successful and productive work this summer with twenty-one major fast-food and catering companies, the UK’s leading food authority has said.

As part of its work to help people make healthier choices when eating out, the Food Standards Agency is seeking views on how a voluntary calorie labelling scheme will work best in practice.

Catering businesses, including many major high street names such as KFC and Burger King, have been displaying the calorie content of dishes on menus in a few select Scottish outlets to help people make healthier choices.

A calorie labelling scheme would let people see the number of calories in the food and drink they order when they are eating out – whether they are in restaurants, coffee and sandwich shops, pubs, leisure attractions or staff restaurants.

The consultation is seeking views from the public as well as the catering industry on how calorie information should appear.

It can be done
An independent evaluation study, also published by the Food Standards Agency overnight, shows that this first group of businesses were able to introduce calorie labelling with relative ease. It also highlights what customers want from a scheme that would help them make healthier choices more easily.

The evaluation showed that three factors – visibility, understanding and consumer engagement – were found to have an impact on consumers’ capacity and inclination to use calorie labelling. People could envisage using calorie labelling to help them make healthier choices, while still enjoying their favourite foods when eating out.

The evaluation also highlighted that more people will know to look for and use calorie labelling once it has become more widespread.

“Our work with the catering sector is ground-breaking,” Food Standards Agency Chief Executive, Tim Smith, said. “Whether people are grabbing a snack on the go, eating in a staff restaurant or out for a meal with their family – the introduction of calorie labelling will enable them to see what choices are healthier and help them improve their diets.”