A Scottish local authority has signalled its support for a ban on ‘go large’ promotions on meals in cafes, restaurants, and takeaways as part of attempts by the country’s food watchdog to tackle the nation’s poor diet.
Councillors in Dundee, which has the worst obesity rate for primary one-age children anywhere in mainland Scotland according to NHS Scotland figures, is expected to formally back plans to introduce mandatory measures to address the obesity crisis.
The body responsible for food standards and nutrition in Scotland is currently consulting on a range of proposals, including mandatory calorie labelling.
Food Standards Scotland has said the country’s diet is too high in calories, fats, sugars, and salt, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Now, Dundee City Council’s community safety and public protection committee is expected to formally endorse the watchdog’s suggestions, stating that “mandatory means” are necessary to address problems which cost Scotland £4.6bn a year.
In its draft consultation response, the committee said it wants to make outlets serve smaller portions and print the calorie contents of meals on menus.
A report to councillors, who will be asked to formally approve the response at a meeting on Monday, states: “There is no single solution to tackling the issue of a poor diet, however eating outside the home is one of the areas where change is needed as in many cases the food and drink on offer tends to be a less healthy option.”
The council’s response argues that as well as compulsory calorie labelling, food inspectors should be trained to carry out checks to ensure premises are meeting the new regulations.
It states: “Businesses need to cease practices that encourage over-consumption.
“This will require defining carefully which practices encourage overeating. Multi-packs and ‘go large’ promotions on meals and drinks should be banned. Healthy meal deals could be promoted.”
It added that “public sector premises should be exemplars and early adopters” of the new measures.
Alan Ross, the convener of the committee, said: “Basically, we are trying to promote healthier lifestyle choices.
“It’s about people living longer, reducing the strain on the NHS and the benefits eating healthily.”
NHS Tayside dietetic consultant in public health nutrition Joyce Thompson said: “NHS Tayside is aware that food eaten outside the home currently makes up a significant part of people’s diets and therefore welcomes the Food Standards Scotland’s consultation on proposals to improve the out of home food environment.
“The proposals, which include consideration of portion sizes, calorie information on the menus, improving quality of food sold out of home, and shifting marketing and promotion strategies from unhealthy products to healthier options, offer important steps in the solution to tackle overweight and obesity.”
Jonathon Clark, owner of Clarks bakery in the city, said he would comply with any new rules but did not think mandatory calorie labelling “makes much sense”.
He said: “We have a salad bar at the front of our shops and have tried to promote healthier eating in our shops.
“I don’t think it makes much sense - if somebody wants to eat something healthy they’ll make it themselves at home.
“If it’s a rainy day then we are at our busiest as people want comfort food.”
The proposal has emerged just weeks after American chain Fatburger opened a branch on Dundee’s Reform Street.
The business is famed for its quadruple Fatburger challenge, comprising a meaty tower of four burgers sandwiched in a brioche bun with mustard, relish, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise.
Heather Peace, Head of public health nutrition at Food Standards Scotland said: “We are delighted that Dundee City Council are planning to take part in our Out of Home consultation.
“We would also encourage other organisations and consumers to have their say so we can gather as many views as possible before the consultation ends on 28 February to inform our Out of Home Strategy.”