The public is being invited to have their say on plans to add the number of calories to menus in the out of home food sector including cafes, restaurants and takeaways.

The Out of home sector – mandatory calorie labelling: consultation fulfils a pledge made by the Scottish Government’s in their 2021 Out of Home Action Plan. The Plan builds on the commitments made in the 2018 Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan and recommendations made by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) to Scottish Ministers in 2019. 

Mandating calorie labelling at the point of choice is one potential way to support the Out of Home (OOH) sector to make a key contribution in improving our dietary health. In Scotland it is estimated that there are around 41,000 outlets in Scotland that fall within the Out of Home definition.

In setting out this consultation, the Scottish Government have used the expertise of Food Standards Scotland and Public Health Scotland to set questions that will help us establish the benefits, opportunities and impacts of mandating calorie labelling in OOH settings.

The 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 also welcome views on possible approaches to enforcement. With Local Authorities currently responsible for enforcing existing food law in businesses captured in the scope of the mandatory labelling proposals, it is acknowledged that they will be best placed to support delivery and enforcement of the proposal. 

The consultation responses will inform whether legislation is introduced to make it a legal requirement for calories to be included on menus and forms part of the government’s wider actions to ensure Scotland is a place where we eat well and have a healthy weight, including our aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030. 

Since 6 April, out of home businesses in England with more than 250 employees have to display calories are in meals on their menus, websites, and on delivery platforms.

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 (FSS) Head of Nutrition Science and Policy Dr Gillian Purdon said:

“We welcome the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation on mandatory calorie labelling for the out of home sector.

“FSS has long proposed the introduction of mandatory calorie labelling as part of a suite of recommendations to address the nation’s poor diet. Alongside the consultation, we published the findings of two reports which highlight that overall, calorie information at point of choice can reduce the amount of calories ordered or consumed.

“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.”