Public opinion on mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants and takeaways


  • Jamie Lightfoot


Mandatory calorie labelling, obesity, nutritional information


Worldwide obesity levels have been progressively increasing over the past few decades leading the World Health Organisation (WHO) to formally recognise obesity as a major public health problem in 1997. It is argued that one of the main driving forces behind the obesity crisis is poor diet. There are an increasing number of consumers eating at restaurants or ordering food delivery which are high in calories, fat and sugar which can lead to health concerns and a greater risk of obesity. To try and tackle rising obesity levels, there has been an increasing interest in policy interventions worldwide, including calorie labelling. Consumers have expressed an interest in wanting a greater access to nutritional information and that they would use this information to help inform healthier food choices. In the United Kingdom (UK), the government introduced legislation to implement mandatory calorie labelling for large food businesses in April 2022. However, previous research has found mixed effects of calorie labelling on consumer behaviour. Furthermore, public opinion on this legislation is unclear. This study was conducted to improve our understanding of public opinion on mandatory calorie labelling using an online questionnaire. Responses from a total of 69 adults who live in the UK was collected. Our results found that most respondents were concerned about their health and weight but did not actively track their calorie consumption. Furthermore, there were mixed opinions on whether they thought calorie labelling would have a positive effect, with many respondents concerned about the detrimental effect it could have on people with current or past eating disorders. Generally, participants would like access to other nutritional information, rather than just calories, when eating out, but would prefer this as an option-to request a labelled menu, rather than it be the standard menu provided. However, there was lower positive responses to actively using calorie information to help inform their menu choices, questioning whether the mandatory calorie labelling would be effective as a policy to reduce obesity. Further research would be required to investigate whether there was any change to actual purchases in restaurants and takeaways and whether the legislation forces establishments to reduce the calorie contents of their menu.