The Scottish Government is considering mandatory calorie labeling in restaurants and pubs across Scotland.
Officials are in the process of seeking views from Scots on the policy, which has been described as a ‘key proposal’ in the government’s Out of Home Action Plan.
The policy could see calorie information signposted next to food items on menus, apps and on notices at buffets.
Calorie labeling would apply to all outlets selling food, including cafes, restaurants, takeaway outlets, pubs, hotels and vending machines, under the government proposals.
Obesity and poor diets have been described by the Scottish Government as a ‘national health emergency’.
Data published from the 2019 Scottish Health Survey found that 66 per cent of the population have a body mass index (BMI) over 25 – which is considered overweight by the World Health Organisation.
It is hoped that the policy will reduce diet related health inequalities and will make it easier for consumers to purchase healthier meals when they’re out for dinner or ordering takeaways.
Scots are being asked to give their views on the proposal – from the way this information should be presented to how it could be enforced.
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Health and Sport Minister Maree Todd said: “We face another national health emergency. Obesity and poor diet continue to be one of the biggest and most complex public health challenges.
“Creating a Scotland where we all eat well, have as healthy a weight as we can, and are more physically active remains a priority.
“There is no single solution to addressing our diet and obesity challenges. However, we know that a key factor is improving our food environment, making it easy for everyone to buy healthier foods and supporting business to offer healthier options.”
She added: “The introduction of mandatory calorie labeling at the point of choice in the OOH (Out of Home) sector would be a significant step forward and level the playing field with the retail sector.
“We know that giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals will enable people to make healthier choices when eating out, or ordering in.
“It has also been shown to stimulate businesses to review their offerings and encourage reformulation.”
The opening of the 12-week consultation comes after similar proposals became law in England earlier this week.
Large businesses with 250 or more employees in England must now display calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drink items that are prepared for customers.
The UK Government estimate that overweight and obesity related conditions across the UK cost the NHS £6.1bn every year.
But the move has been branded as ‘dangerous’ by charities that support people with eating disorders.
Andrew Radford, Chief Executive at Beat, said: “Requiring calorie counts on menus risks causing great distress for people suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders, since evidence shows that calorie labeling exacerbates eating disorders of all kinds.
“Although we recognize the importance of reducing obesity, research shows that anti-obesity campaigns that focus on weight instead of health are counter-productive, while the number of calories consumed is not a reliable indicator of health.
“Public health campaigns need to consider people’s mental health as well as their physical health. They must move away from obesity-shaming to emphasizing healthy behavioral changes and instilling confidence into people.”
Scots can give their views on the Scottish Government consultation on calorie labeling here.