Five things to know about why we need calorie labelling in takeaways, fast food outlets and cafes.

Five things to know about why we need calorie labelling in takeaways, fast food outlets and cafes.

Today Food Active has submitted a response in support of the Government’s consultation on mandating calorie labelling in the out of home sector, including takeaways, fast food outlets, cafés and restaurants.

In September, the Government opened a 12-week consultation on mandating calorie labelling in the out of home (OOH) sector, which includes a wide range of businesses such as restaurants, takeaways, fast food outlets, cafés, sandwich shops and more. The consultation aims to collect views from a wide range of stakeholders on whether to introduce this measure as legislation – and the practicalities of doing so, officially closing on Friday 7th December. 

Food Active fully supports the introduction of calorie labelling across the whole of the OOH sector and we believe it is a important measure that should form as a wider  comprehensive package of improvements to the food environment that support healthier lifestyles.

But what does the evidence say? Can introducing calorie labelling across all menus in the OOH sector really help to tackle obesity? We highlight the five most important reasons why we think calorie labelling in the OOH sector should be introduced in the UK.

5 things to know about why we need calorie labelling in the out of home sector

1. One quarter of our calorie intake is consumed outside of the home: The OOH sector plays an increasingly important role in the UK populations dietary intake, as more and more of us purchase and consume foods outside the home on a daily basis. The UK has seen a 53% increase in the number of places to eat OOH between 2005-2015 [1] and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggests that between 2008/09 and 2012/13, one quarter of adults and one fifth of children eat food from OOH outlets at least once a week [2]. Therefore, this contributes to an important part of our dietary intake, yet consumers are currently provided with little information about the nutritive value of these foods. Consumers need to be more informed about the types of food and drink they are purchasing and consuming when out and about. 

2. OOH foods are typically less healthy for us: Meals eaten OOH tend to be associated with higher intakes of fat, saturated fat, free sugar and salt, especially when compared with the UK’s Dietary Reference Values [3, 4, 5]. In addition, research has suggests that portion sizes found in the OOH sector are also typically greater than the average serving size [6]. 

3. Calorie labelling on menus leads to a decrease in calories consumed:  There is some review-led evidence to suggest displaying calorie information on menu’s can decrease the amount of calories purchased and consumed by around 10%. The evidence currently available is limited and further extensive research studies are warranted to help strengthen the evidence-base [7].

4. The public support it: Research suggests that over three quarters (76%) of the population agree that cafes and restaurants should display calorie information on menus [8].  Our research with parents in the North West also shows the majority also support this measure. 

5. Takeaways are dominated by independent outlets: We recognise that introducing calorie labelling on menus will pose a greater burden to smaller independent businesses. However, takeaways and fast food outlets – which typically sell processed, fried food and drink that is high in fat, sugar and/or salt – are largely independent retailers, with one or two shops [9]. We also know that takeaways and fast food outlets are typically concentrated in deprived areas, with poor communities living in and amoungst them of whom experience higher levels of poor health and obesity [10]. On the grounds that lower socioeconomic groups may use smaller independent OOH outlets more frequently as a result of their location or price compared to chain outlets, extending calorie labelling across all OOH retailers is warranted – however only if the Government and local authorities can provide enough support to these businesses to guarantee that they are not put under any unnecessary strain.  

These are just some of the many reasons and justifications to why calorie labelling in the OOH sector needs to be made mandatory across all businesses. To find out more and read our official submission to the consultation, please follow the link below. 

Mandating calorie labelling in the out of home sector – Food Active Response FINAL



[1] The Food Foundation. Force-fed. Does the food system constrict healthy choices for typical British family? 2016

[2] Public Health England (2018) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from years 7 and 8 (combined) rolling programme. London: Crown Copyright.

[3] Jaworowska AM, Blackham T, Long R, Taylor C, Ashton M, Stevenson L, Glynn Davies I. Nutritional composition of takeaway food in the UK. Nutrition & Food Science. 2014;44:414–30.

[4] Lachat C, Nago E, Verstraeten R, Roberfroid D, Van Camp J, Kolsteren P. Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev. 2012;13:329–46.

[5] Summerbell CD, Douthwaite W, Whittaker V, Ells LJ, Hillier F, Smith S, Kelly S, Edmunds LD, Macdonald I. The association between diet and physical activity and subsequent excess weight gain and obesity assessed at 5 years of age or older: a systematic review.

[6] Obesity Health Alliance and Action on Sugar (2018) Blueberry muffins survey [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18th October 2018]

[7] Crockett RA et al. (2018). Nutritional labelling for healthier food or non-alcoholic drink purchasing and consumption. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.)

[8] ComRes interviewed 2,036 adults in Great Britain online between 22 and 24 January 2016. Data were weighted to be representative of all adults in Great Britain

[9] Public Health England (2016) Obesity and the environment: density of fast food outlets [online] Available at: [Accessed: 18th October 2018]

[10] CEDAR (2017) Food environment assessment tool [online] Available at: [Accessed: 12th November 2018]


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