You’ve heard that all takeaway and restaurant food now needs to come with calorie labelling. Your pavement café serves coffees, toasties, and freshly baked goods. Should you start giving out calorie info with your cappuccinos and blueberry muffins? Regulations can be confusing. We’ll make them simple! Coming up: Your simplified guide to England’s new calorie labelling regulations.
From April 2022, large businesses in England’s food service industry are legally required to display calorie information on all foods and drinks. These regulations apply to all businesses with more than 250 employees, including sit-down and takeaway outlets, online outlets, and catering companies.
Still, have questions about what exactly the calorie labelling involves? What information do you need to share, and where should you display it? Are there businesses or foods that are exempt from calorie labelling? We’ll clear up any confusion and tell you the steps to take to get your business regulation-ready.
Your Simplified Guide To England’s Calorie Labelling Regulations
Food service business owners, listen up! Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of all you need to know to get on top of the new calorie labelling regulations.
Step 1: Check Whether The Regulations Apply To You
Wondering whether you need to make changes to your business?
Find out by asking yourself two questions:
Question 1: Do you employ more than 250 people?
Question 2: Does your business sell foods and drinks that people can eat immediately, either at your venue or away?
Restaurants, takeaways, cafés, and pubs are all obvious examples of outlets that sell goods that can be eaten or drunk as is. However, the regulations also include the following types of businesses:
- Home delivery services and online or app-based outlets.
- Mass catering companies (for example, for canteens and events).
- Food stores like delis, sweet shops, and bakeries.
- Grab-and-go or sit-down food services within larger venues like supermarkets and cinemas.
- Transport businesses in the UK that serve food.
Answer yes to both questions? Your business is on the list.
We’ll now guide you in the do’s and don’ts of the new regulations so you can breathe easy knowing you’ve done what’s required to stay on the right side of the law.
Step 2: Know Which Foods And Drinks Need Calorie Labels
Everything that’s not pre-packed and can be eaten or drunk immediately needs a label. This includes ready-to-eat (or drink) items that people enjoy at your venue or take away with them.
Countless foods and drinks fall into the scope of the regulations, from pizza slices, salads, pastries, and sandwiches to buffet spread and ‘build your own’ meals and desserts. Because the list of foods and drinks that need calorie labels is so long, let’s explore what’s not on the list.
Step 3: Know Which Foods And Drinks Don’t Need Calorie Labels
A few food and drink categories don’t need to be calorie labelled. These include pre-packed foods, single-ingredient foods, loaves of bread, and condiments customers add to their foods.
Pre-Packed Foods And Drinks
There’s no need to worry about pre-packed foods and drinks because these items already have nutrition labels. Examples include frappes, milkshakes, fizzy drinks, smoothies, and low- or no-alcohol drinks that come in packaging with calorie information.
However, suppose you package foods you’ve made. Perhaps you put salads into tubs before adding them to your display case or pop a slice of cake into a box after a customer has bought it. You’d need to add calorie labels to these goods, as they are not considered to be pre-packed.
Foods that have one ingredient, like pieces of fresh fruit and veg, herbs, nuts, seeds, fish, meats, and cheese, don’t need calorie labels.
But if you combine single-ingredient foods (say, you chop up bananas, strawberries, and grapes to make a fruit salad), you need to give the dish’s calories.
Loaves Of Bread
You can skip calorie labelling loaves of bread (even recipes that include things like olives or sundried tomatoes and those sprinkled with seeds).
Though, you’ll need to label rolls and buns.
Condiments Customers Add To Their Food
You don’t have to bother about the calories of condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, or coffee syrups that customers add to their foods and drinks.
However, you need to add condiments’ calories to meals’ overall calorie count when they’re part of the meal (like the ketchup you add to a burger when you prepare it).
Other Foods That Don’t Need Calorie Labels
Two more food categories aren’t on the labelling list:
- Foods for sale for fewer than 30 days in a row and 30 days max in a year.
- Foods not on the menu that customers ask for.
Step 4: Know What Information To Display
You now have a good idea of the foods that need calorie labels. But what information exactly should you display?
There are three essential parts of information to display:
Part 1: The energy in the food or drink in kilocalories (kcal). Note: Kilocalories are the same as the calories you might recognise from food packaging.
Part 2: The portion size of food or drink that contains the number of kcal you specify. Note: On a menu, the item’s description doubles as a description of the portion size.
Part 3: This word-for-word statement: Adults need around 2000 kcal a day.
Step 4: Put The Regulations Into Action
Okay, it’s time to bring calorie labelling to your business! Where do you start?
First, work out the calorie content per portion of the different foods you sell. Then, display this information in a way that ticks all regulatory boxes.
Calculate The Calories In Foods You Sell
There are different ways to work out how many calories are in your foods. The most accurate way would be to get a food scientist to analyse the foods.
Another option is to base your calculations on widely accepted calorie data. The go-to UK database for food nutrition is the McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods Dataset. For imported foods, you could consult EuroFIR and USDA data. You would need to calculate the calories in the whole dish and then work out the calories per portion.
Tip: Keep records of how you calculate the calorie information so you can explain your calculations to enforcement officers who pop in.
Display Foods’ Calorie Information
You should display foods’ calorie information where customers think about their options and decide what to eat or drink. The information needs to be visible and legible. (Reminder: the required details are the kcal per portion, portion size, and statement of daily calorie needs.)
Keep these pointers in mind:
- Display calorie information at every point where customers choose what foods and drinks to buy. For example, on menus (paper, boards, online, and app) and food labels accompanying items chosen from display cases, shelves, and buffets
- Display calorie information next to items’ descriptions or prices on menus
- Display calorie information on food labels for items on display. Place each food label on or near the item it describes
- Display the statement of daily calorie needs prominently. This statement must appear on every menu page and where it can be easily seen on menu boards. Position the statement as the focal point where foods are chosen from a display
- Make sure all calorie information is easy to spot and read. Take care not to hide the information behind images and other wording. Plus, consider using the same lettering style, colour, and size for the calorie information that’s used for items’ descriptions and prices
See these illustrations to help spark ideas for adding calorie information to your menus and food displays.
Tip: Keep a few menus with no calorie information to give to customers who ask for a menu without this information.
While implementing the regulations, you might run into problems. Here are common difficulties you might face and their solutions:
How to display calorie information for ‘build your own’ meals
|Where customers choose what goes into their meals, you could give the calorie information for standard meal bases. Then also give the calories for a standard portion of each optional ingredient. For example, if you own a sandwich bar, you could give the calorie information for different bases, like a wrap, bun, or bagel. Then give the calorie information for optional toppings, like a pre-sliced piece of cheese, a ribbon of smoked salmon, or a tablespoon of pesto|
|How to display calorie information on coffee menu boards that encourage customers to customise their drinks||If you have a coffee shop that lets customers pick the type of milk that goes into their drink, you might struggle to fit the calorie information of all the different milk options for each drink on your menu board. In this case, your menu board could display the calorie information for drinks using the standard milk option and refer customers to a different menu where they’ll find the calories of all the other kinds of milk|
How to display calorie information for ‘pick and mix’ foods or foods sold by weight
|For items sold by weight, like nuts, include the calories and weight per portion. For example, dry-roasted, salted almonds have 166 kcal per serving (25g). Where customers help themselves to foods, you could provide calorie information per scoop or another portion size, like eight halves of dried apricot|
How to display calorie information for foods consisting of more than one portion
|Where an item is prepared to be shared, give the calories for the whole item and specify how many people it is intended to serve|
How The Regulations Can Help Your Business
Yes, calorie labelling will take time and expenses to get right. But it can also boost your business!
Growing numbers of customers are looking for transparency in the brands they support. You’ll show your customers you want to help them make informed choices about what they eat and drink by sharing calorie information. You could even go beyond calories and add full nutrition labels to your foods.
Instead of seeing calorie labelling as a hassle, why not use it to reimagine and improve the foods you sell.
You could tweak your calorie-heavy dishes to make them more enticing to customers who like to eat light. Small changes can cut the calories while keeping the taste – experiment with reducing fats and sugars and adding fruit and veg. You might just lure in a whole new market of health-conscious eaters!
The Government believes the calorie labelling regulations will help fight obesity and lessen the burden on the NHS. Overweight and obesity-related conditions cost the NHS about £6.1 billion a year. So, by introducing calorie labelling to your business, you’re doing your bit for a healthier England!
Of course, another reason to go with calorie labelling is to avoid penalties for going against these compulsory regulations.
Here’s a timeline of the major milestones that brought the calorie labelling regulations into force:
- 14 September 2018: The Government consults on calorie labelling.
- 13 May 2021: The instrument (legal document detailing the regulations) is created.
- 22 June 2021: The instrument is approved.
- 27 July 2021: The instrument is signed into law.
- 6 April 2022: The instrument comes into force as law.
The Government will review the regulations in the coming five years. There’s a chance that the regulations may then change to include smaller businesses. So, smaller foodservice business owners, perhaps look into some options in case you need this.
Check these resources for more tips and guidelines to help you get clued up on calorie labelling:
- UK’s calorie labelling implementation guidance
- UK’s illustrated examples of how businesses could comply with the regulations
- User Guide For McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset 2021
- McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods Datasets
- USDA Food Composition Data
Need a refresher glance at the when, where, who, what, how, and why of England’s new calorie labelling regulations? Here you go:
- When: From 6 April 2022
- Where: England
- Who: All foodservice businesses that employ more than 250 people
- What: Display the following calorie information on foods and drinks: The kcal per serving, the serving size, and the wording “Adults need around 2000 kcal a day”
- How: Display the calorie information at every point where customers decide what foods and drinks to buy – that is, on menus and labels accompanying foods on display
- Why: To help the Government tackle obesity