EVERY RESTAURANT, pub and cinema chain should “step up and show leadership” in tackling the obesity crisis by displaying the calorie content in their food and drink, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
The body, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has called for more retailers to show the number of calories on their menus as many people do not know how many they are consuming.
While some outlets in the UK – including McDonald’s and Wetherspoons – have already introduced calorie counts to their menus, the LGA said the industry needed to go “further, faster”.
It has also called for £1bn of existing VAT to be handed to councils to fund obesity prevention schemes to “help millions of overweight and obese children across the country and ease pressure on the NHS”.
Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s community well-being board, said: “We are calling on cinema, restaurant and pub chains to step up and show leadership in tackling the obesity crisis, by providing clear and graphic signs at counters and on menus.
“In many cases, people are unaware of how many calories they are consuming. Food and drink outlets should be doing more to provide clear and prominent labelling which spells this out clearly.”
Ms Seccombe said the public should be allowed to make “informed choices about what they eat and drink.”
She added: “Some retailers are already introducing calorie counts and this is a step in the right direction. But the industry needs to go further, faster so people know how many calories their food and drink contains.”
More than 3.5 million children in Britain are classed as overweight or obese, the LGA said.
The body, which is responsible for public health, has called for food and drink outlets to introduce the calorie count signs on a voluntary basis.
A mandatory scheme in America has given restaurant chains with more than 20 outlets until December 1, 2016 to include detailed calorie counts on their menus.
The LGA said research from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that soft drinks were the largest contributor to children’s sugar intake, with youngsters aged 11 to 18 getting 29 per cent of their sugar from soft and fizzy drinks.
It emerged yesterday that a can of fizzy drink contains more than the recommended daily amount of sugar for children under 11.
A report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has advised the Government to halve the current recommended intake of free sugars in a bid to tackle the growing obesity and diabetes crises, estimated to cost the NHS a combined £15bn a year.
The news comes days after the British Medical Association said sugary drinks should be taxed and carry cigarette-style health warnings to combat obesity and childhood tooth decay.
The British Medical Association said a 20p levy on sugary drinks could help reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people.
Separately, Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty, said warnings on sugary drinks were needed to tackle a crisis in the number of children who had decayed teeth removed.
Children in Yorkshire have some of the highest rates of tooth decay.