Menu app that tells you if a dinner is slim pickings
AN app showing diners the nutritional value of their menu is set to be rolled out across Scotland.
The smart tool will be introduced following calls by an obesity watchdog for mandatory calorie labelling in cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has launched a voluntary trial of MenuCal in seven council districts. Nutritionists see it as a stepping stone to a statutory code for the food industry and consumers as Holyrood prepares its strategy on diet and obesity.
MenuCal is already operating in Ireland and now Scotland could become first UK nation to make the online calorie counter official.
FSS and the Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee have been working on the trial to help independent caterers provide the nutrition information.
Yesterday, Lorraine Tulloch of doctor-led campaign Obesity Action Scotland said: ‘We want mandatory labelling for all meals out of the home.
‘A legally enforceable approach creates a level playing field for all businesses.
‘We have such a problem with obesity and poor diet that we need strong action if we are to change anything.’
The campaign group was set up by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow to advise Holyrood. Mrs Tulloch added: ‘It is important that people are informed because it is so difficult to know how many hidden calories are in something. It is about raising awareness for customers, restaurants and the catering sector.’
Dr Ian Campbell, founding chairman of the National Obesity Forum, backed legal enforcement, not a voluntary code. ‘I do think compulsory labelling would be helpful,’ he said.
‘I’m keen that all suppliers of food to the public should be accountable for calorific content.
‘Consumers can all too easily be fooled into thinking their food choices are healthy if the producers tell them so. Far better that they are able to see, clearly, just what’s in the food they choose.
‘There’s evidence that consumers can use this kind of information to make healthier choices, independently of what the marketing is telling them.
‘Steps like this to make it easier for small businesses to provide this information are to be welcomed.’
Some large enterprises already provide the information.
Since 2014, restaurants and takeaways have been required to label 14 named allergens but FSS wants to see diet laws extended.
MenuCal, developed in Northern Ireland, enables food firms to calculate calories per portion.
The scheme is being piloted at 25 caterers in Glasgow, South Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Stirling, Perth and Kinross and the Western Isles.
The Scottish Government said: ‘We will consult on our new diet and obesity strategy this autumn.’
‘Consumers can all too easily be fooled’