Government Approves Heads of Bill for Calorie Posting on Menus

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Government Approves Heads of Bill for Calorie Posting on Menus

Proposals to require restaurants, take-aways and all food service outlets to post calorie details of all meals on menus were approved at the Government's Cabinet meeting this week.

The laws will require restaurants, take-aways and food service outlets to post the information alongside the price for all items offered on menus, at the point where the food is ordered, whether at tables or counters.

“I am very concerned about levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland. Latest figures indicate that nearly two out of every three adults, and one in four children, are overweight or obese. This presents real risks for health and wellbeing and causes a high percentage of many of the chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes,” Minister Varadkar said.

“Giving calorie details on menus is a very simple but effective way of encouraging people to choose a healthier option. Food options can be deceptive. Some salads contain more calories than a burger meal. But if we make the information clearly available, at the very least people can make an informed choice. It won't work in every case but it's a powerful tool which has proved very effective in the US.

“The Government has listened to industry concerns about extra costs. That's why the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has developed an online calorie counting model known as MenuCal, which allows food providers to calculate the calorie content of a meal. It's a user-friendly app and it's free of charge.

“People are free to choose what they eat, and that's only right. But public consultation tells us that 95% of consumers want calories displayed on menus. The current voluntary model is not working. Some of the fast food chains in Ireland have been providing information on calorie content. But with only 8% doing so, the time is right to make the healthier choice the easier choice.”

Extensive research shows that no single measure on its own is sufficient to reduce the levels of overweight and obesity, but there is sufficient scientific evidence to show that the public benefits from information about calories at the point of choice.

Drafting of calorie posting legislation will start immediately and should be ready for enactment in 2016. The proposed laws will require all menus, including boards, leaflets, digital menus or other forms, to display the amount of calories alongside the price in the same font size and colour.

Calorie posting is one of a range of measures on obesity planned for 2015. Others include revised Healthy Eating Guidelines and a new Obesity Policy and Action
Plan.