FSA in Scotland
Last updated on 3 December 2009
Calories on menus one step closer
Menus with calorie information are one step closer to becoming a reality today, following successful and productive work this summer with twenty-one catering companies.
As part of its work to help people make healthier choices when eating out, the Food Standards Agency is seeking views on how a voluntary calorie labelling scheme will work best in practice.
Catering businesses, including many major high street names, have been displaying the calorie content of dishes on menus in a few select Scottish outlets to help people make healthier choices.
A calorie labelling scheme would let people see the number of calories in the food and drink they order when they are eating out - whether they are in restaurants, coffee and sandwich shops, pubs, leisure attractions or staff restaurants.
The Scottish Government is already encouraging Scottish catering outlets to signpost healthier menu choices through their Healthyliving Award Scheme, which is supported by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland.
They welcome the provision of calorie information for consumers in Scottish catering outlets as both schemes have a role to play in supporting consumers to make healthier food choices.
The consultation is seeking views from the public as well as the catering industry on how calorie information should appear and will close on 11 March 2010. It sets out the key principles of a scheme, which are based on work that the Agency undertook over the summer with 21 companies that had introduced calorie labelling in some or all of their outlets.
An independent evaluation study, also published by the Food Standards Agency today, shows that this first group of businesses were able to introduce calorie labelling with relative ease. It also tells us what customers want from a scheme that would help them make healthier choices more easily.
The evaluation showed that three factors – visibility, understanding and consumer engagement – were found to have an impact on consumers’ capacity and inclination to use calorie labelling. People could envisage using calorie labelling to help them make healthier choices, while still enjoying their favourite foods when eating out.
The evaluation also highlighted that more people will know to look for and use calorie labelling once it has become more widespread.
Food Standards Agency Chief Executive, Tim Smith, said: 'The consultation we are launching today asks for views from both industry and consumers on how calorie labelling will best work in practice. It will also set out guidelines for businesses wanting to join this important initiative.
“Our work with the catering sector is ground-breaking. Whether people are grabbing a snack on the go, eating in a staff restaurant or out for a meal with their family – the introduction of calorie labelling will enable them to see what choices are healthier and help them improve their diets.'
The consultation closes on 11 March 2010. The Agency will collate responses and publish details of a final scheme in Spring 2010.
Notes to Editors
The 21 companies who introduced the scheme this summer:
Camden Food Co
Chessington World of Adventures and Zoo (operated by Merlin
Compass Group UK and Ireland (in a number of Royal Mail staff restaurants)
Harvester restaurants and Scream Pubs (operated by Mitchells & Butlers)
ISS Mediclean (in a number of London hospital restaurants)
Marks & Spencer Cafés
Nestlé UK staff restaurants
Pret A Manager
Sodexo (in a number of client restaurants in its corporate and defence sectors)
Tesco staff restaurants
The Co-operative Expresso Cafes
The Real Greek
Unilever staff restaurants
7 Day Catering (in staff restaurants)
- The Healthy Food Code of Good Practice makes a commitment to provide clear, effective and simple to understand nutritional information on food in a wide range of catering settings.
- The FSA launched this work in January 2009 and we are now working with 21 companies who originally agreed to introduce calorie labelling in 450 outlets across the UK. This increased to 800 outlets at the end of October 2009. Some have made long-term commitments, while others are participating on a trial basis.
- The Agency’s Social Science Research Unit commissioned TNS-BMRB to carry out an independent evaluation to explore practical implications for businesses and consumers’ initial reactions to the provision of calorie information at the point of choice. It was based on interviews with outlet managers and Head Office representatives of companies working with the Agency, as well as 289 customer interviews carried out within outlets either while they were choosing their food or shortly after and eight focus groups with consumers. Fieldwork was carried out during May, June and July.
- The overall aim of the study published today was to explore the practical implications for businesses participating in the pilot phase of a scheme to provide calorie information at the point of choice in catering outlets and to explore consumers' views of the visibility and presentation of calorie information. The study did not seek to investigate demand for calorie labelling but to explore if and how consumers used the scheme in purchasing decisions.
- The methods employed in this research were qualitative in nature. Qualitative methods neither seek, nor allow, data to be given on the numbers of people holding a particular view nor having a set of experiences. The aim of qualitative research is to define and describe the range of emergent issues and explore linkages, rather than to measure their extent.
- BMRB Social Research Qualitative was commissioned to carry out the evaluation in April 2009. Since this, they have merged with TNS and are now trading under TNS-BMRB. The evaluation report refers to BMRB and BMRB Social Research Qualitative.
For the full consultation, evaluation and further information about our work with the catering industry, please see the links below.