"This is not the time to throw petrol on the fire" - UKH questions timing of food target announcement

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

UKHospitality questions timing of PHE new calorie and salt reduction targets

Related tags ukhospitality Public health england Calorie information

Trade body UKHospitality has questioned the timing of Public Health England's (PHE) decision to announce new calorie and salt reduction targets for eating out and takeaway businesses.

In a statement UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said that while the industry would always support the objectives of PHE's initiative to tackle obesity, the decision to announce these new targets at a time when hospitality businesses are struggling to stay afloat "rather sticks in the craw".

Yesterday (7 September) PHE announced that foodservice and takeaway businesses will be encouraged to follow voluntary calorie reduction guidelines to 'support the national effort against Covid-19 and obesity'.

In line with its obesity strategy, PHE has recommended that operators look to reduce calories by 20% for most meal categories and adhere to a maximum calorie guideline for all categories.

For children’s meal bundles, a 10% calorie reduction ambition has been set “to reflect progress already made,” while a 10% reduction ambition has also been set for retailers making ready meals, chips and garlic bread.

For crisps and savoury snacks, a 5% ambition has been set, and combined guidelines for the retail and out of home sectors have been set for sandwiches (5% ambition) and pizza and pastry products (20% ambition).

New voluntary salt reduction goals have also been published, encouraging businesses to help reduce consumer salt intake from the current average of 8.4g per day, towards the recommended 6g.

Public health minister Jo Churchill says the guidelines will help foodservice and takeaway businesses take positive action.

"The food industry can play their part, by making it as easy as possible for everyone to eat more healthily," she adds.

But Nicholls says the has announcement just put an 'extra burden' on hospitality businesses. 

“The hospitality sector has been supportive and proactive in helping to provide healthier choices and nutritional information for customers," she says.

"We continue to support the objectives and will never absent ourselves from such well-intentioned pursuits, but the timing of these announcements, with the country still in the grips of a pandemic and hospitality businesses struggling to stay afloat, rather sticks in the craw.

“Never have the burdens threatening the existence of hospitality businesses been more acute – this is not the time to throw petrol on the fire.”

In July it was announced that the Government was pushing ahead with plans​ to force restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees to add calorie labels to menus.

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