New laws will require restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees to add calorie labels to the food they sell.
The measure is part of the government’s new obesity strategy to get the nation fit and healthy and protect against COVID-19.
Research shows eating out is becoming more common, particularly among families, with 75% of people visiting a restaurant, fast food eatery or getting a takeaway in the past week, compared to 69% in 2010. However, the government feels there is often a lack of information about the calorie content of these items and, as a result, people consume around 200 more calories a day if they eat out compared to food prepared at home.
It is hoped this new measure will help people make healthier, informed choices as part of a balanced diet.
New laws will also ban the advertising of food high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) on television and online before 9pm when children are most likely to see them, and restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar, such as ‘buy one get one free’ offers.
Calorie labelling on alcohol is also being considered in a bid to make drinkers aware of hidden calories and spur a reduction in consumption.
The urgency of tackling the obesity time bomb has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from COVID-19.
Living with excess weight puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases. Nearly 8% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9% of the general population.
The government believes overconsumption of calories is one of the most significant contributing factors in becoming overweight. Figures show many adults are consuming 200 to 300 extra calories a day above recommended daily guidelines with children who are already overweight are consuming up to 500 calories more than they need every day.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Everyone knows how hard losing weight can be so we are taking bold action to help everyone who needs it. When you’re shopping for your family or out with friends, it’s only fair that you are given the right information about the food you’re eating to help people to make good decisions.
“To help support people we need to reduce unhelpful influences like promotions and adverts that affect what you buy and what you eat. Taken together, supported by an inspiring campaign and new smart tools, will get the country eating healthily and losing the pounds.”