public health and social care

15.02.16

Display calorie counts in restaurants to help tackle obesity – LGA

The calorie content of food and drink should be given to customers in pub, restaurant and cinema chains to tackle childhood obesity, council leaders have stated.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that as part of the government’s new childhood obesity strategy, which is due to be announced this month, chains with more than 20 outlets should be required to clearly display the calorie count of their food on menus and at counters.

The government already offers catering outlets the chance to pledge to display calorie counts on a voluntary basis through the Public Health Responsibility Deal, introduced in September 2011.

However, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokesperson and Warwickshire County Council leader, said: “Clear and prominent signs indicating the number of calories in a product should be mandatory.

“We need to take bold action in changing our environment if we are to beat obesity, and that includes when we're sitting at a table in a restaurant reading a menu or ordering at the counter.”

The LGA said calorie counting schemes have had success in places such as New York, which introduced one in 2008.

A 2011 British Medical Journal survey of a sample of New York fast food restaurants found that the regulation did not lead to an overall decline in calories purchased, although it did lead to a decline at some individual chains, including KFC and McDonald’s.

Public Health England figures found that in 2014-15, 19.1% of children in England in Year 6 were obese and 14.2% were overweight.

Children in the poorest decile were almost twice as likely to be obese as children in the richest. Among adults, 26% of men and 23.8% of women are obese, and obesity costs the NHS over £5bn a year.

In November, the LGA responded to a Health Select Committee report on childhood obesity warning that cuts to public health services would make the problem harder to prevent.

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