Calorie labels are recipe for disaster, warns restaurant trade
RESTAURANTS have said they could be crippled by a Whitehall push for mandatory calorie labels on menus as the hospitality industry fights for survival.
Pub and restaurant bosses said the plans could deal a fresh hammer blow to the beleaguered industry as it emerged that hospitality outlets lost close to £30bn in sales during the second quarter of 2020.
As part of its new obesity strategy, the Government plans to make calorie listing on food menus compulsory at all restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaway businesses which employ more than 250 people.
It will also encourage smaller companies to voluntarily provide calorie information and will consider enforcing this in the future.
The chief executive of one major fast food chain said the plans are akin to “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade group UKHospitality, said that companies will be forced to spend an average of £30,000 to £60,000 on calorie measuring equipment so they can abide by the rules, at a time when funds are brutally short following months of closure.
The rules will be more burdensome for smaller firms which change their menu frequently – potentially harming efforts to promote regional and seasonal food such as game or Britishfarmed vegetables.
Ministers are considering making the rules enforceable by Trading Standards, with the industry told to provide accurate calorie information rather than a rough guide.
Ms Nicholls said: “In order to get an accurate assessment of calorie levels for a particular dish, businesses are really going to have to invest in quite a bit of technology to be able to calculate it.
“If you are a big business or a chain then your menu might change once or twice a year, but it could also change because you’ve switched supplier and used different ingredients.
“These are considerable additional cost burdens at a time when businesses are struggling to break even.
The Government’s plans were revealed as data business CGA said that hospitality sales tumbled 87pc in the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to nearly £30bn in lost revenue.
The collapse in sales follows a total lockdown of restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels from mid-March. As a result sales totalled just £4.6bn from April to June, down from £34.2bn in the second quarter of 2019.
Ministers will also launch a new consultation on alcohol calorie labelling as part of their strategy to make the country healthier, including for drinks sold in pubs such as draught beer.
The British Beer and Pub Association urged the Government to consider more collaborative ways to work with the industry, including promoting low and no-alcohol beers.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “Making calorie labelling mandatory for all beer, including draught beer, is unnecessary and burdensome at a time where many smaller brewers are struggling to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.”
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