Food Standards Agency
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Consultation on scheme to show calories on menus

The Food Standards Agency is seeking views on how a voluntary scheme to display calorie information on menus would work best in practice.

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

Food Standards Agency Chief Executive Tim Smith, said: 'The consultation we are launching today asks for views from both industry and consumers on how calorie labelling will best work in practice. It will also set out guidelines for businesses wanting to join this important initiative.

'Our work with the catering sector is ground-breaking. 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.'

The consultation is based on an evaluation of calorie information that was introduced in 21 food companies during the summer. The evaluation, which is also published today, looked at the cost for businesses and practical issues of providing calorie labelling. It also considered how consumers use and understand this information.

Any problems encountered by the food businesses when setting up the schemes were overcome relatively easily.

The customers interviewed said they could imagine using calorie labelling to help them make healthier choices when eating out, while still enjoying their favourite foods.

The three factors that had the greatest impact on people's tendency to use calorie information on menus were:

  • the clarity of the information
  • people's understanding of calories
  • engaging consumers by providing tips on saving calories

The evaluation also suggested more people would look for and use calorie labelling when it was more widespread.

The consultation closes on 11 March 2010. The Agency will collate responses and publish details of a final scheme in spring 2010.

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