Mandatory calorie labelling in the out-of-home sector – consultation response

In December 2018, we responded to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on mandatory calorie labelling in the out-of-home sector as part of the UK Government’s childhood obesity plan in England. As of August 2021 we've revised our position to acknowledge a lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of calorie labelling to reduce obesity.

In June 2018, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published Chapter 2 of Childhood obesity: a plan for action (PDF), which set out a number of proposals that aim to reduce and prevent childhood obesity for children and young people to achieve a healthy weight. 

As part of a package of measures to tackle obesity, the Government proposed calorie labelling in out-of-home settings to give families an informed choice over what they eat in restaurants, cafes and takeaways, by ensuring they know how many calories they and their children are eating when they eat out. The full paper and consultation and be found online.

Our response

We have used our response to state that we broadly support this proposal as an effective measure to reduce the number of calories people consume and enable them to make healthier choices. You can download our full response to the consultation below.

Our recommendations

  • We support the Government proposals to introduce legislation to make calorie labelling mandatory for all out-of-home businesses.
  • The RCPCH recommends mandatory calorie labelling be introduced for all food and drink, including special and temporary menu items. 
  • For children, there is no set recommended daily calorie intake. Therefore, we do not think calorie labels should show that number as a proportion of the recommended daily intake.
  • Placing any nutritional information on menus may cause distress for particular vulnerable groups, including those suffering from eating disorders. We therefore recommend that focus is maintained on encouraging healthy behaviours, and that education and public health campaigns are introduced alongside any new labelling systems to emphasise this, and minimise risk of distress.

Update - August 2021

In light of the recent increased prevalence of eating disorders and the concerns raised by our members and eating disorder specialists, we believe the negative impact of calorie labelling on menus in children and young people to be more significant than it was in 2018. Therefore, we have revised our position to that, while we continue to support calorie labelling in out of home settings as part of a package of measures to help children and young people achieve a healthy weight, we acknowledge there is a lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of calorie labelling to reduce obesity.

We recommend that the UK Government continues to consult with eating disorder specialists to understand the impact of this policy and ensure mitigations are in place to protect those with or at risk of developing eating disorders. The Government should also continue to monitor and review the effectiveness of this legislation with a detailed impact assessment as the policy is implemented.