Calorie calls come under fire

Measure would bring significant costs and curtail creativity

Under the proposal, it would be mandatory to display calories on menus

CHEFS and restaurateurs have slammed fresh calls to make calorie content information on menus mandatory, saying it would bring significant cost and operational challenges for businesses and curtail creativity.

The measure – one of a number of recommendations Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has put to the Scottish Government – would require ‘out of home’ food businesses, like pubs and restaurants, to display the calorie content of dishes on menus; other recommendations made by FSS, the non-governmental body tasked with advising the government on food policy, include developing a code of practice for children’s menus.

But chefs, restaurateurs and trade groups say Scotland’s hospitality businesses are already “leading the way” when it comes to promoting healthy eating, and there is no need for blanket mandatory regulations.

Campbell Mickel of Merienda restaurant in Stockbridge said the proposal to make calorie content on menus mandatory “is passing the buck and smacks of desperation”.

“The agency wants to educate people and that is great; this is not the way,” he said.

“It would be very difficult for small restaurants that offer a constantly-changing menu, such as ours, to offer an exciting seasonal menu and would allow the chains a greater hold of what is already a very saturated marketplace.”

Paul Kitching, of 21212 in Edinburgh, agreed.

“Of course good health through diet is essential, exciting and fun, but for any independent ‘stand-alone’ restaurant, brasserie, bistro, tavern or pub to accurately predict the calorific amount, its carbohydrate, protein, essentials and fat percentages would surely be impossible,” he said. “Huge chains – pre-prepared, weighed and measured types – are easily able to declare this information.

“Chefs cook; most are not nutritionists, physicians, chemists or doctors.”

Ryan James, of Glasgow Restaurant Association and owner of the Two Fat Ladies restaurants, said: “It’s a pious approach to deal with what I see as a food poverty issue. It would just be another layer of legislation on an already overburdened restaurant industry.”

Willie Macleod, executive director for Scotland at UK Hospitality, said the measure would bring a “considerable additional cost for businesses already facing tightening margins”.

“It would also represent a considerable burden for those venues that change their menus regularly, some on a daily basis, to incorporate locally sourced produce, seasonal ingredients and specials,” he said.