Pubs and restaurants could face calorie limits

By Robert Mann

- Last updated on GMT

Calorie cap: the Government may order pubs and restaurants to stop selling high-calorie meals in a drive to cut obesity
Calorie cap: the Government may order pubs and restaurants to stop selling high-calorie meals in a drive to cut obesity
Pubs and restaurants could soon be asked to stop selling calorie-packed meals as the Government continues its drive to cut obesity levels in the UK.

The Morning Advertiser ​reported last month the shocking discovery that pubs and restaurants were serving food with 45% more calories than a Burger King meal.

It was uncovered that an average main meal at a pub or family restaurant – such as a Wetherspoon pub or Nando’s – contained an astonishing 1,033 calories, while dishes from takeaway chains had an average of 751.

Since the research was revealed, Public Health England (PHE) now wants to limit the number of calories in foods as part of the Government’s wider strategy to cut obesity levels in the UK – particularly among children.

The introduction of ‘maximum calorie limits’​ is among a series of measures suggested by the Government organisation to make eating out healthier and to ultimately tackle the nation’s “very serious” obesity problem.

As the proposed guidelines were revealed, Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, warned the food industry has a “responsibility to act”.

“Children and adults routinely eat too many calories, and severe obesity in 10 to 11-year-olds has reached an all-time high,” she exclaimed.

“These are early days in the calorie reduction programme, but the food industry has a responsibility to act.”

Limitations ahead

Current guidelines in the UK suggest men should eat 2,500 calories per day, while women should consume 2,000.

Dr Tedstone said the department would welcome the industry’s feedback before publishing its final guidelines this year.

The measures will suggest calorie caps in dishes such as chips, burgers and pizzas, therefore limiting pubs and restaurants​ as to what they can make and sell.

The PHE has initially suggested sandwiches should be capped at 550 calories, while pub and restaurant main courses should not exceed more than 951.

“We are consulting on ambitious guidelines to help tackle everyday excess calories – we welcome the industry’s feedback to help shape the final guidelines,” Tedstone added.

Unscientific and unrealistic

Although most health experts and obesity campaigners have welcomed the plans, it has caused some scepticism​ among the restaurant industry and its consumers.

The Adam Smith Institute, a free market think-tank, labelled the figures “arbitrary, unscientific and unrealistic”.

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the institute said he finds it “astonishing” at how specific the calorie caps are.

“What no country now has is specific calorie caps on specific meals, but apparently the UK now wants to adopt such caps,” he added.

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