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Requirement for calorie labelling in large food establishments comes into law

We welcome the new regulations on calorie labelling on menus that will help people make healthier choices and reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. We're calling for bolder action from the government to make it easier for people to eat healthy foods and to address social inequalities which negatively impact people's health.

Calorie labelling

Calorie labelling

Today, 6 April, marks the introduction of mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways in England, something that Diabetes UK played a leading role in campaigning for

We welcome this new development as an important step in enabling more people to live healthier lives and reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. We're calling on the government to build on it with further bold policies aimed at tackling the UK’s unhealthy food landscape as well as the socio-economic factors which lead to worse health outcomes for many in society.

Helping people make healthier choices

We know that people can struggle to make informed choices when eating out due to the lack of nutritional information available. The new legislation, enacted today, will see calorie labelling become mandatory for all menus in food establishments (including restaurants, pubs, fast food outlets, cafes, and supermarkets) who have more than 250 employees.

This will include online and third-party delivery websites and apps. This is an important step but we also want to see full nutritional information made available in restaurants, including consistent details on carbohydrate contents to support diabetes management, provided in all cafes and restaurants too.

We campaigned for this change in legislation as part of our Food Upfront campaign in 2018/19. Our research showed that only 29% of British adults felt well informed about the nutritional information of the food they buy when they eat out. We also found there was overwhelming support for calorie labelling on menus, with 74% of people surveyed supporting the change.

More needs to be done

The pandemic has both highlighted the increased health risks faced by people living with obesity and saw the largest increase in childhood obesity in England on record. There is evidence to suggest that businesses who provide calorie information also provide healthier options on their menus and that calorie labelling on menus encourages people to make healthier choices.

However, no single measure is likely to lead to the massive change that is needed to reduce the rising levels of obesity across England. It's important that other changes coming soon are built upon.

Other commitments by the government include ending buy-one-get-one free deals for the most unhealthy food and drinks and restricting their placement in supermarkets.

We've been concerned to hear rumours in the media that this could be delayed or even stopped. It is important that the government brings in ambitious policies to enable healthier lives.

We're calling for:

  • healthy food to be accessible for all
  • further policies that support people to have more active lives
  • a UK cross-governmental strategy to reduce the negative impact of non-medical factors, like where you live, or the type of job you have, on your health.

Last year, the independent National Food Strategy set out a range of recommendations on how the government could further address the obesity crisis. The government’s plans are due shortly and we have joined calls with a wide range of other organisations for a Good Food Bill to be enacted, in order to provide a cross governmental strategy, enshrined in legislation. 

Bridget Turner, Director of Policy, Campaigns and Improvement at Diabetes UK said:

“Obesity is the single greatest modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes and there are an estimated 13.6 million people at increased risk of developing the condition in the UK. Tackling this health crisis is vital, so the government’s commitment to make large takeaway, cafe and restaurant chains calorie label the food they sell is a welcome move towards reducing the rising levels of obesity in the UK.

“Diabetes UK campaigned strongly for these measures through our Food Upfront campaign. We hope it will bring these large, out-of-home businesses more in line with the food retail sector when it comes to giving people clear calorie information for the food they buy, hopefully leading to improved menus and healthier options.”

“This is a welcome step, but it is only the first step. We would like to see the government do much more to support people to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes through addressing unhealthy food environments and the underlying social determinants of obesity.”

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