Calorie contents should be listed on all Scottish menus, Foods Standards Scotland recommends
Scottish food businesses must look at “significant changes to make food outside the home healthier” including listing calories on restaurant menus, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has recommended.
An FSS board paper, released yesterday, suggested new recommendations that will be put before Scottish Government ministers.
The body recommended the government require Scottish food businesses to display “calorie contents” on menus, improve the range of healthy food and drink choices available on children’s menus and set a better standard for healthy food out of home.
FSS said the recommendations had “strong public support”, after its recent consultation showed 68 per cent of respondents were “in favour of mandatory calorie labelling” and 81 per cent believed “the public sector should lead the way in improving food out of home”.
The recommendations have been backed by Cancer Research UK and Obesity Action Scotland.
“Almost everybody – 98 per cent of us – in Scotland eats out, and around 25 per cent of all our calories now comes from the food we eat out of home,” FSS chair Ross Finnie said.
“In the absence of calorie information, our most popular choices are those which are less healthy items of confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, chips, crisps and sugary drinks.
“With two out of three people either overweight or obese in Scotland and a sharp increase in the volume of takeaways being ordered, action is needed to transform the current food environment for our health.”
Finnie said consumers should “have the information they need to make choices” and had “a right to know” the number of calories inside the food they were eating out of home.
“Eating out is now part of our everyday experience and is not always a treat as it was in the past, but we also know that calorie consumption out of home is often more than calories consumed in the home,” he said.
“Many popular out of home choices, such as burger meals and fish and chips can also contain nearly all of our recommended daily calories in one meal alone.
“That is why this sector is so important in tackling our health crisis. Government, individuals and industry have a responsibility to change the current diet, and we expect the out of home sector to be helping drive that change. It can and should act now and should not be waiting for government regulation to make changes.”
Cancer Research UK prevention expert Linda Bauld said it was important, as the restaurant and takeaway sector grows, it “develops in a way that helps diners make informed choices about what they’re eating”.
“The proposals made here would go a long way to helping do this,” she said.
“Improvements in this area would go hand-in-hand with the Scottish Government’s plans to also make grocery shopping healthier through restricting junk food promotions. It’s vital we also see legislation on these restrictions as soon as possible.”
Obesity Action Scotland programme lead Lorraine Tulloch said the measures would “ensure that consumers are fully informed about what they are buying and that the food industry improve their offering”.
Tulloch noted: “However, a lot of these measures rely on voluntary action by food premises and do not address marketing and promotion of unhealthy products out of home.”
“The new Out of Home Strategy needs to empower and help people make healthier choices every day,” she said.
“We will be carefully monitoring progress to ensure Scots get the heathier choices they desire for themselves and their children.”