Minister to make calorie counts compulsory

The vast majority of food businesses have not responded to the call to post calorie information on their menus and as a result the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD has said he’s even more determined to press ahead with compulsory calorie counts on food menus.

He made the announcement following an independent survey commissioned by his Department revealed that just 7% of food businesses are providing the information on a voluntary basis.

“We know that over 95% of consumers in Ireland want the calorie count of meals displayed on menus,” stated the Minister, “It’s a proven way of changing consumer behaviour and independent evidence from the USA shows that calorie posting is very effective. So the results of this survey are very surprising.

“The State has made a conscious effort to support businesses, including the online calorie calculator provided by the Food Safety Authority. I appreciate that it can be difficult for some businesses in particular which change their menus on a regular basis. But when uptake is that low, it’s clear that that we need to take further action.

“I have already obtained Government approval to draft a Bill to make it compulsory for food outlets to display the calorie content of meals. The intention is to have this passed by the Oireachtas and enacted in 2016.

“Although obesity levels have stabilised, the recent Healthy Ireland survey showed that 60% of Irish people are overweight. In the near future we will publish a National Physical Activity Plan and an Obesity Policy.”

The Minister is also to press ahead with new legislation to make the posting of calorie information compulsory on food displays.

However obesity is a much broader issue than just calorie intake and highlighting a single issue is not in the best interests of consumers, believes VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben.

“A broader, education-based, response to the issue is required,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “This will bring significant additional costs to small enterprises for very little return for the consumer.”

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