In the UK, more and more restaurants are adding nutritional information to their menus, or displaying the information on their websites, despite it not yet being a legal requirement.
The success, in the UK, of compulsory nutritional labelling displayed on pre-packaged food, which was welcomed by the public, is indicative of demand for more detailed nutritional information generally.(1)
In response to public demand and the advice of health experts, the UK government launched the ‘UK Public Health Responsibility Deal’ in 2011. This included the ‘Out of Home Calorie Labelling’ initiative, which promoted a voluntary approach to introducing nutritional information on menus. By the end of 2011, around 5000 outlets were displaying calorie information (2).
While the government has not taken an interest in the issue in recent years, the Out of Home Calorie Labelling scheme having been effectively – though not officially – terminated since 2015 due to inactivity (3), however studies clearly demonstrate the benefits of, and demand for, calorie labelling on menus. Josiam et. al. (2009), found that some individuals would dine out in restaurants more often if nutritional information was made available. (4). A study from Dundee University showed that 43% adults welcomed calorie information in a range of food outlets including coffee shops, pubs and restaurants (5).  The Consumer’s Association also found that 66% of its members wanted to see calorie information on menus (6).
Other studies have shown that individuals who use calorie menu labelling purchase fewer calories. For example, a large study by Dumanovsky, conducted in 2011 (7), reported that the 15% of consumers who reported using the calorie information provided, purchased 106 fewer calories, on average, compared with those who reported not using the information.
If done correctly nutritional labelling on menus could potentially help consumers choose healthier lower fat/sugar options by giving them the information they need to make an informed choice about their food.
A Review of Calorie Labelling Laws in other Countries
Including calories on menus was introduced in 2015 on a voluntary basis in Ireland; the Government have approved a draft bill to make it compulsory for food outlets to display nutritional information, but as yet is still being discussed. It was initially introduced in 2015 in response to concerns regarding the high levels of obesity and heart disease amongst the population.
During the consultation period, studies found over 95% of consumers in Ireland wanted calories to be displayed on menus (8).
The USA took a similar approach, and in 2003 voluntary labelling of calories on menus was introduced. This was followed, in 2008, by New York City introducing legislation for calories labelling; now more than 30 US cities and states have followed New York’s example.
Under the legislation produced by the City of New York, all chain restaurants with more than 15 outlets are required to display nutritional information for all regular items on the menu; daily’s and specials do not need to comply. A federal law was due to be released earlier this year, which would have made it mandatory for all businesses across the USA with over 20 outlets to display nutritional information; however, the enactment of this law was delayed at a last minute reprieve by the US Food and Drug administration until May 2018.
In Australia, nutritional information on menus is compulsory in certain states for food outlets with 20 or more locations. Unlike other counties, Australia use kilojoules rather than kilocalories on their nutritional labelling.
Best Practice for Nutritional Labelling
Nutritional labelling on menus needs to be effective and understood by customers, following best practice examples can help achieve this. These listed below have been compiled from the information provided in a variety of studies and through examination of successful legislation:
  • Display the information on all food and drinks regularly consumed.
  • Have the information next to, or near to, where customers would be ordering from to ensure it is clearly visible.
  • Display calories per portion, not per 100g, to help customers understand what they will be consuming, and to avoid being misleading.
  • Include some information about the average number of calories individuals need per day, to help customers put into context the number of calories in the meals.
The Saffron Allergen & Nutritional Web Portal
Determining the nutritional content of a meal can be tricky, particularly when complex recipes are involved, when portion sizes vary, or when there are multiple components of a meal. To do this with any accuracy requires professional knowledge and expertise, not readily available to most food providers.
To help businesses, and other food providers, best serve the needs of their customers and clients, avisso offers a service that provides the support and professional knowledge needed to create the nutritional profile of a meal.
By using the industry standard Saffron Allergen and Nutritional Web Portal, dietitians at avisso can provide clear and easily understood nutritional information. Once complete, this information is made available, in real-time, for customers to view at their convenience. This innovative system has already been adopted by a number of prominent restaurant chains in the UK.
The Portal displays nutritional information using the traffic light formatting system, which consumers are now familiar with. By accurately and effectively communicating Allergen information to customers and staff, use of the Saffron Allergen & Nutritional Web Portal also supports food providers in becoming compliant with the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014. The portal links directly to a database, showing the real-time profiles of all the dishes served by a particular organisation. The web portal can be customised with own branding, logos and themes and is fully responsive across all devices including PC, Tablet and mobile.
Employing the Saffron Allergen & Nutritional Web Portal, along with the expert knowledge of avisso’s experienced dietetics team, is the easiest and most effective way to provide accurate nutritional information on menus and meet the rising demand from consumers all across the UK. Calories, anyone?
  • Understanding Northern Ireland Consumer Needs around Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Information in Online Retail Environments. TNS BMRB, (May 2016) https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/consumer-needs-around-food-labelling_0.pdf Accessed online October 2017.
  • Out of Home Calorie Labelling (2011) Department of Health. http:// responsibilitydeal.dh.gov.uk/f1-calorie-labelling Accessed online October 2017.
  • Nutrition label standards and regulations on the use of claims and implied claims on food (2017) World Cancer Research Fund International. 13/10/17 Accessed online October 2017.
  • Josiam, Bharath and Foster, Charles, (2009) “Nutritional information on restaurant menus: Who cares and why restauranteurs should bother”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 21 Iss: 7, 876 – 891.
  • Mackison et al (2009) Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 22 : 567-573 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2009.01000.x/abstractAccessed online October 2017.
  • Which? (2011) Food chains, just put calorie counts on your menus. http://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/food-chains-display-calorie-information-menus/ Accessed October 2017.
  • Dumanovsku et al (2011) British Medical Journal 343:d4464  http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4464. Accessed October 2017.
  • Calories on menus in Ireland Report on a National Consultation (June 2012) Food Safely Authority of Ireland.