National Consultation on Calories on Menus Legislation

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today announced a national consultation by the Department of Health to seek views on the legislation for the introduction of mandatory posting of calories on menus. The consultation is based on the Government’s proposed Health & Wellbeing Bill, which will apply to non pre-packaged food served by food businesses for immediate consumption on or off the premises. All interested parties are invited to communicate their views by completing an online questionnaire. The consultation will close on 28th October 2015.

The proposed legislation will apply to food businesses regardless of size, type of food sold, type of ownership or location. It will require all menus, including boards, leaflets and digital menus to display calorie details alongside the price in the same font size and colour. It is proposed that calorie amounts will be displayed in Kcal (Kilo calories) and KJ (Kilo Joules) using a verifiable tool for calorie counting such as MenuCal – a free online calorie calculator developed by the FSAI to assist food businesses.

As part of the consultation, the Department of Health is seeking opinions on specific aspects of the proposed legislation and its implementation. For example, views are sought in relation to calculating and displaying calorie information for food served at self-service buffets; menu specials for sale less than 30 days of the year; loose food, such as sandwich fillings served in delis; food meant for sharing; and multi-portion or ‘combo meals’.


Consultation: Proposed Mandatory Calorie Posting on Menus


Additional Background
As a public health issue, overweight and obesity are ranked as the biggest pandemic affecting the largest number of people in Ireland, contributing to a myriad of preventable chronic diseases. Three in every five adults are overweight or obese and this represents an increase of 10% over the last 20 years. One in four children is overweight or obese at age of 3. This trend continues in ages 7, 9 and 11 year old, with children from disadvantaged areas more likely to be obese. It is of concern, as indicated by the World Health Organization, that more Irish children are overweight than in most European countries, and that in less than 15 years Ireland will be the most obese nation in Europe unless action is taken. The annual cost of obesity in Ireland amounts to €1.13 Billion.

Requirements of the proposed legislation (Health & Wellbeing Bill):

  • The Bill will apply to food business operators
  • Food business operators will be required to display energy content of loose food for sale
  • Loose food refers to non-pre-packaged food (ready for consumption on or off the premises, – to distinguish it from a head of cabbage, loose dried beans etc.)
  • Energy content will be posted at the point of choice
  • Menus refer to any listing of loose food for sale
  • Menu boards refer to a listing on any material whether it is paper, plastic, wood, electronic or anything else. This includes remote advertising such as bill boards and posters describing food and price.
  • Energy content will be displayed alongside the price in the same size, colour, font, style and background
  • Energy content will be calculated using MenuCal or another instrument (or tool) of similar standard
  • Energy will be displayed in Kcal and KJ
  • Guidance notes will be produced to assist food business operators and inspectors
  • An enforcement plan will include a schedule of inspection, monitoring, sampling and penalties for non-compliance