Scottish government consults on calorie labelling regulations 

The Scottish government is asking the public to have its say on plans to add the number of calories to menus in the out of home food sector.

Mandatory calorie labelling is part of action to address obesity, which continues to be one of the biggest and most complex public health challenges.

A 12-week consultation, which sets out the broad types of food and drink that would be covered, will seek views on how this could apply to:

  • food and hospitality businesses, depending on their size,
  • public sector institutions such as hospitals and prisons,
  • pre-packed food such as filled sandwiches,
  • online takeaway menus,
  • children’s menus.

The consultation will inform whether legislation is introduced to make it a legal requirement for calories to be included on menus.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “Before the pandemic, people living in Scotland were consuming more and more food and drink out of home or ordering it in. Whether it’s breakfast at a roadside café, grabbing a lunchtime soup and sandwich from a local convenience store or ordering food online from a restaurant, most of us were increasingly buying food outside the home – a trend I expect to resume as we recover from the pandemic.

“Two-thirds of the population living in Scotland is recorded as living with overweight or obesity – a key factor in our plan to address this is calorie labelling. We know that giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals will enable people to make healthier choices when eating out, or ordering in. This is not novel practice – calories are already required on retail food purchases and calorie labelling for out of home sites is mandated in many other countries.

“Many food companies in Scotland have already taken this significant step voluntarily.  We want to learn from those experiences and I would urge everyone to share their thoughts in this consultation.”

Food Standards Scotland Head of Nutrition Science and Policy, Dr Gillian Purdon, said: “With eating out is now an everyday occurrence and nearly a quarter of our calories coming from food and drink purchased outside of home, mandatory calorie labelling is one way to support people to make healthier options.”

Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium, Ewan McDonald-Russell, added: “Our members in grocery and food-to-go have led the way in providing calorie and nutritional information to consumers, over and above the action they have taken to promote healthier alternatives and reformulate products to reduce their salt, sugar and fat content. Ensuring customers of all organisations serving food understand exactly what they are consuming empowers them to make the right choices to ensure they maintain a balanced diet.

“Introducing a mandatory approach to calorie labelling is therefore a reasonable proposition, provided it is implemented in a sensible manner and is applied to all businesses serving food and drink.”