Monday, 5 September 2011

Calories to be Shown on Fast Food Menus

Calories are coming out. No more hiding away in secret places where only the most determined calorie counters can find them. From Wednesday 7th September, McDonalds will start displaying the calorie count of all their food items on the menu boards.

No more kidding ourselves that a quarter pounder with cheese isn’t really that many calories. From now on, the calories will all be clearly on display so customers can make an informed choice.

McDonalds is one of 38 companies who have signed up to the Responsibility Deal, a voluntary scheme which is working in partnership with the Government to help tackle public health concerns such as the obesity epidemic. Research shows that putting calorie information on labelling does have an influence on people’s choices. With one in six meals eaten outside the home each week, this could potentially have a beneficial effect on the type of food people choose to eat.

In New York, where calorie counts on menus became compulsory in 2008, indications seem to suggest that around one in six customers have reduced their calorie consumption by around 100 a day.

It’s certainly great news for people who are concerned about their calorie intake, who are on weight loss diets and for those who have no idea how many calories they’re clocking up when eating out. By displaying calorie counts, customers may be persuaded to go for a lower calorie option, especially in cases where they’re not really decided on what to eat.

There is quite a big calorie difference for example, between a McDonald's Big Mac and a Hamburger. A Big Mac has 490 calories and 24g of fat. A hamburger on the other hand, has nearly half this amount with 250 calories and two thirds fewer fat grams with just 8g per hamburger.

Calorie labelling may even encourage some fast food chains to make their food healthier, especially if it means customers choosing outlets which have a greater choice of lower calorie options. It would be easy to believe that similar sounding items such as a Burger King Whopper and a McDonalds Big Mac would have a similar number of calories. But the Burger King Whopper has 651 calories and 36g of fat as opposed to the 490 calories and 24g of fat for the Big Mac.

Jill McDonald, CEO and President, McDonald’s UK, said:

In March we announced our intention to extend the communication of nutritional information to our customers to include displaying calories on our menu boards across the UK. This move, as part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, supports the principles we believe are important: giving our customers clear information to help them make decisions that are right for them and provide a choice on our menu.”

Of course, knowing how many calories are in fast food can be a tremendous help. But if you don’t know how many calories you should be eating each day, then the calorie counts on menus may not have much meaning. You can find out how many calories you need each day in this post.

Organisations who have signed up for the Responsibility Deal include Greggs, Starbucks and Burger King who will begin displaying calories on their menus from 2012.

The full list of organizations who are currently signed up are as follows:

Artizian, ASDA, Burger King United Kingdom Ltd, Camden Food Co., Compass Group UK & Ireland, Co-operative Group (the), EAT., Harvester Restaurants, Initial Catering Services, ISS Facility Services – Food and Hospitality, ISS Facility Services Healthcare, JD Wetherspoon PLC, KFC UKI, Kraft Foods UK and Ireland, Marks & Spencer, Merlin Entertainments, McCain Foods (GB) Ltd, McDonald’s Restaurant Limited, Midcounties Co-operative, MITIE Catering Services Ltd, Morrisons Supermarkets Plc, Nestle UK, Pizza Hut (UK) Limited, Pret A Manger, Rodda’s, Sainsbury’s Supermarket Ltd, (Seven) 7 Day Catering Ltd, Sodexo, Southern Cooperative (The), Starbucks Coffee Company, Tesco PLC, The Real Greek Food Co Ltd, Unilever UK Ltd, United Biscuits (UK) Limited, Waitrose, Warburtons Limited, Wimpy Restaurants Group Ltd, YO! Sushi.
And those who have not yet joined the pledge are: Subway, Pizza Express, Domino’s Pizza, Nando’s, Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee. However, calorie counts for these organisations can be found on their respective websites.

Source: Department of Health


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