As reported by The Morning Advertiser, the Government launched a far-reaching public consultation on calorie labelling for out-of-home food and drink in September.
The consultation, which was initiated following the release of figures showing that nearly a quarter of children in England are obese or overweight by the time they start primary school, rising to a third by the time they leave, ends today (7 December).
While a large number of pubs have already taken voluntary measures to identify healthy choices, the BBPA argues that mandatory labelling of pub menus – a potential outcome from the consultation - would be extremely costly, limit menu choices and disproportionately affect smaller pubs.
The BBPA also argued that demanding pubs count calories would do very little to alter consumer behaviour, highlighting recent studies in both the US and UK, where mandatory labelling made no clear difference to eating habits.
Feedback from BBPA members has revolved around the fact that the cost of determining calorie values and printing them on menus would be far too high for pubs – the vast majority of which operate as small businesses – especially in light of existing cost pressures facing pub licensees and operators including beer duty, business rates, and staffing costs.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, commented: “Mandatory calorie labelling will be hugely detrimental for pubs and we would urge DHSC to look at more collaborative ways to work with the sector instead.
“Many pubs already voluntarily choose to provide information about the food they serve to help customers seeking to make healthy choices.
“The overwhelming evidence suggests that forcing pubs to display calorie content would have no tangible impact on behaviour.
“Calorie labelling will be prohibitively expensive for the sector, in particular for the vast majority of those pubs which are small businesses.
“Considering the cost burden pubs already face from beer duty, business rates, VAT and staffing costs, mandatory calorie labelling could be another nail in the coffin for many pubs.
“Our great British pubs are iconic and at the heart of communities across the UK. We should be helping, not hindering, pubs.
“DHSC should consider collaborative ways of working with the sector to help consumers who wish to make healthier food choices.
“However, should mandatory measures be imposed we would urge exemptions for smaller businesses such as pubs.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality added: “The sector is supportive of efforts to give our customers information to guide them, and are already committed to existing sugar, salt and calorie reduction targets.
"Businesses including our members have already taken proactive steps on a voluntary basis to offer calorie information their menus.
“We are very happy to work closely with the Government to achieve its aims of promoting healthier attitudes to food.
"However, any legislation the Government wishes to introduce must be workable, practical and proportionate, and it must take into account the enormous variety in the way venues do business.
“Any legislative approach must be flexible if it to be applied easily and effectively by businesses. Otherwise, it could have the unintended consequence of adding burdens and undermining a venues’ ability to provide timely information.”