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UK Calorie Law remains counterproductive, ineffective

Meher Sareen
All restaurants with over 250 employees must present menus to customers with numbers displayed by items. The government made the law to promote healthier eating habits, however, a single number cannot tell the real story of what foods contain.

As my eyes darted around the restaurant, I noticed pointing fingers and calculators open on the table. When asked about what was going on, my friends explained they were calculating the best way to consume a healthy amount of food while saving room for dessert. Essentially, they were choosing their meals based on each item’s caloric content.

In April 2022, the U.K. government implemented a law stating that food or drink-selling businesses with over 250 employees must label calories on menus or food items. According to the Department of Health and Social Care and Minister of State, the law is part of the government’s plan to tackle obesity levels. Despite attempts to assist the public in making more mindful decisions about their food choices, this law remains counterproductive by not providing a genuine insight into what foods contain.

When many customers, especially teenagers, see a number beside a food, they assume it will determine how much weight it will cause them to gain. For those aiming to simply gain weight, this number may be useful to dictate their diet. However, for numerous others, the result is contrary. While dining with my friends, I noticed that instead of going for filling meals they would enjoy, their choices depended on the number of calories in each dish. The current law can cause a sense of guilt when going out to do something so simple as picking a meal.

Furthermore, with society already putting pressure on individuals to look a certain way by conforming to an unrealistic beauty standard, this law is all the more detrimental.

Meher Sareen

Although the government had practical intentions when attempting to reduce obesity levels, this law gives rise to other pressing issues, such as disordered eating habits and uninformed decision-making. The law does not accommodate all forms of disordered eating, making calories on menus inadequate.

According to Gov.UK, a provision permits businesses to provide menus without calorie information upon customer request. Although this may seem to cater to customers’ needs, it fails to compensate those picking out items from larger menus at fast food restaurants, or people who are choosing pre-made foods that are ready-to-go.

Moreover, as a result of the law, newer generations will grow up reading menus while having calorie counts dominating their decisions. Masterchef winner Sven-Hanson Britt posted on X that the law will cause the loss of love for food to be prominent amongst younger generations. Britt also mentioned that kids will grow up only looking at calorie numbers presented by dishes.

Still, calories are just a number. Though they may give a broad insight into the amount of energy in a meal, the number is almost meaningless regarding health benefits. Foods comprise many elements, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates and sugars. Calories are simply a measure of the energy in food.

Adding information about specific nutritional makeups would provide superior data to support healthy food choices. Even if simple percentages and graphics become part of menus to indicate foods’ compositions, not only would people be able to make conscious decisions about the nutrition in their food, but those attempting to lose or gain weight could use each food group’s quantity to support their decisions. Basic indications of ingredients each food includes can make a difference and aid long-term healthier eating habits for all ages.

Without this isolated number, people can think for themselves without letting obscure numbers swerve their decisions. Providing insightful information on food items instead of calorie counts will help the general population make conscious decisions on what they eat.

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About the Contributor
Meher Sareen, Reporter
Meher Sareen ('27) is a Reporter for The Standard in Journalistic Writing.

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    AylaDec 4, 2023 at 10:58 pm

    i agree completely!