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We are urging the government not to cop-out on calorie labelling plans

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We are calling on the government to stick to its commitments set out in the second chapter of the Childhood Obesity Plan, following reports that the government’s plans to introduce mandatory calorie labelling in restaurant, cafe and takeaway chains could be watered down to include only 0.3% of businesses in England.

This would mean only 520 businesses out of a total 168,040 in the accommodation and food services sector across England would be included.

The government’s original plans for calorie labelling legislation, were publicly consulted on in 2018. They included all medium-sized businesses, and suggested exemptions only for ‘micro’ businesses. These would be businesses with fewer than 10 employees, such as single operator food trucks.

Despite the consultation ending in December 2018, the government still have not published their proposals. Indications now are that they could be significantly watered down. And would mean exempting all businesses with fewer than 250 employees.

This would mean only the largest chains in the out of home sector would be required to introduce calorie labels on menus or at the point of choice, a significant step back in the fight against childhood obesity.

Our own polling has shown that the public support calorie labelling in the sector. 76% of UK adults agreed that all cafes and restaurants should display calorie information. And 75% said the same in relation to takeaways.

Our Food Upfront campaign asks the government and the out of home sector to listen to consumers. This would mean introducing calorie labelling on menus or at the point of purchase. The change can help customers make healthier decisions about the food they eat. We are calling for this change to help combat the increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes.

Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Policy & Campaigns at Diabetes UK, said:

“Exempting 99.7% of businesses from its calorie labelling legislation would be a cop out from our government. The plans, if they only apply to the largest businesses, would mean the vast majority of out of home businesses would not have to provide consumers with the information they want and need.

“The UK is gripped by an obesity crisis. Urgent action is needed to address it, but if the government water down their original commitments, then the legislation will have significantly less impact. If the government is serious about addressing inequalities and supporting the most vulnerable in our society, then they must be ambitious in their action to tackle obesity.

“The government must publish their calorie labelling plans urgently, and provide assurances that medium sized businesses are included in their plans – along with a clear timeline for implementation in all businesses. We cannot allow 99.7% of café, restaurant and takeaway businesses to continue as usual while the UK’s obesity crisis worsens and cases of Type 2 diabetes continue to rise.”

That’s why today we’ve called on the government to stick to its commitments set out in the Childhood Obesity Plan. This would mean large and medium-sized businesses are included. It will also provide a clear timeline for calorie labelling across the out of home sector. As part of the Food Upfront campaign we are also calling for clearer and more consistent nutritional and carbohydrate labelling. This is so people with diabetes, and the public, know what is in the food they’re buying.

Yesterday we submitted an open letter signed by almost 2000 of our supporters. It called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to follow through on what the government promised in the Childhood Obesity Plan. This would be to introduce calorie labelling in the out of home sector.

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