Restaurants could face curb on portion size and calorie count

Limits on portion sizes, maximum calorie limits and calorie labelling are among measures set to be considered for Scotland's cafes and restaurants as part of the country's efforts to curb obesity.

Food outlets could be forced to clearly display to customers the nutritional content of each meal and also potentially limit the number of calories they are allowed to provide in one portion under options being considered in a consultation into “out-of-home” eating north of the Border.

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The consultation, launched today by Food Standards Scotland (FSS), also raised the suggestion that deals and promotions should focus on healthier rather than unhealthy options, while half-size portions should be available to those who want to eat a smaller meal.

Restaurants facing new challenge

It said there was “a need” to rebalance food on offer in restaurants towards “more nutritious, lower calorie menu options”. It added that options when eating out contribute “disproportionately” to the recommended daily food intakes of around 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women.

Ross Finnie, chair of FSS, said: “We recognise the out-of-home sector makes an important contribution to the Scottish economy, but it doesn’t always support a healthy diet. Our proposals aim to shift the food choices available when we’re eating out towards those that are healthier and have lower calories. We welcome suggestions on how businesses could lead the way to make the necessary changes.”

He added: “There is a real opportunity for the public sector in Scotland to set the standard for healthy eating out of home, by implementing measures now such as clear calorie labelling, cutting down on calories and reducing portion sizes.”

It has been estimated that on average up to 25 per cent of a person’s calories may come from eating out. The typical person eats out three or four times a week in Scotland’s estimated 39,000 “out-of-home” businesses, particularly for breakfast and lunch. Obesity and diet-related ill health is one of Scotland’s biggest health concerns, costing around £4.6 billion every year, while two thirds of Scottish adults are classed as obese.

The consultation document, which hopes to elicit responses from food businesses as well as public sector bodies and food manufacturers, also puts forward the suggestion that recipes could be changed to include healthier and lower calorie ingredients such as reducing fats and sugars and increasing fruit and vegetable intake, as well as beans and pulses for higher fibre content.

The proposals would cover workplace canteens and hotels, as well as cafes, restaurants and pubs. Food delivery services such as Deliveroo and UberEats, which bring restaurant meals to people’s homes, would also be covered by any new rules to be implemented from the consultation.

Public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick said: “We are looking forward to engaging with all parties to improve the food and drink available outside the home and ensuring the changes made will be reasonable and proportionate.”

FSS said people in Scotland make around 9.5 million visits to “out-of-home” establishments each year.

Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead of Obesity Action Scotland, welcomed the proposals. She said: “We urgently need to improve the out-of-home food environment in Scotland as it is having a significant impact on our waistlines.”

She added: “Implementation of an out-of-home strategy for Scotland could empower and help people to make healthier choices every day.”