Last chance to give views on controversial menu calorie count plans

Making the labelling on restaurant menus mandatory has been met with criticism by both eating disorder charities and the hospitality sector.

Controversial menu calorie count consultation set to end amid criticism over eating disorder risk iStock
The legislation could make it mandatory to list calorie amounts on menus.

A nationwide consultation on the introduction of calorie amounts on restaurant menus is due to close on Friday.

Plans mooted by the Scottish Government could lead to food outlets being made to publish calorie information next to food items on menus, apps and notices at buffets.

The proposals are designed to help reduce obesity levels by making diners consider their food choices, however opponents have warned it risks the recovery of those living with eating disorders.

Hospitality chiefs have also criticised the plans, arguing it could discourage many from dining out.

Similar legislation was introduced in England earlier this year, though drew the ire of disordered eating charity Beat.

Dr Stephen Anderson, a consultant psychiatrist in eating disorders, said there is little evidence calorie labelling on menus is effective in reducing obesity after a survey revealed 95% of those experiencing disordered eating would find such counts “triggering”.

He added: “Suggesting that people need a specific number of calories does not take into account the individual’s physiology, gender, race and activity.

“This could be particularly harmful for children and young people where limiting calorie and nutritional intake can have significant impacts on development.

“A wider public health initiative looking at social and economic determinants of obesity and improving the population’s nutrition is likely to be more beneficial than listing calorie content on menus.”

Restaurateurs added the move could “jeopardise” the sector’s recovery amid the emergence from the Covid pandemic.

Tanya Gohil, who operates the Silk Road Deli in Glasgow, said eateries risk a “real decline” in footfall, adding chefs will be required to “seriously adapt” their offerings in order to fit in with the plans.

She added: “The reality is people want to go out and enjoy a meal without thinking about how many calories they’re consuming.

“Eating out is an experience enjoyed by millions of Scots each year and I worry that this could put lots of people off.

“Realistically, lots of restaurants will have to look at adapting their menus or changing ingredients to make their dishes low-calorie too. This will of course have an impact on costs and in some instances could affect the flavours of each dish.

“As a chef and small business owner, it’s frustrating to know we may be required to make these changes after what has already been a tricky few years.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We take eating disorders seriously and will fully consider all consultation responses in relation to them. We recognise that this is an opportunity to identify potential unintended consequences, and any necessary mitigation measures, should mandatory calorie labelling be introduced.

“The consultation remains open until July 1 and we would encourage all those with an interest to take part and share their views.”