Before you count the calories…

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Can’t ever imagine I’d be down my local quizzing the food waitress about the calorie count on my chosen dish but hey, I might just be one of those in an increasingly unfashionable minority.



10 August 2012

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But there again, I don’t think I am.

Demonstrating even further the foggy remoteness of civil servants from the coal-face of commercial reality, the Minister for Health has told us that he’s introducing a voluntary calorie count on restaurant and pub menus but has threatened to make such counts mandatory within six months if we “don’t come to the party”.

To back this view up, he adduces ‘overwhelming’ consumer support for such a move with 96 per cent of respondents in a FSAI survey (where four out of five of those questioned were consumers) supporting calorie labeling in some or all food outlets while some 84 per cent of consumers said calorie labeling of alcoholic beverages should apply in all or some outlets.


Did the FSAI survey also mention to these good consumers that this would involve such outlets in considerable costs that would have to be passed on in higher prices? Were these selfsame consumers ever informed about that before glibly taking their response? Thought not…

Look, we’d all like to travel the trains and buses in First Class comfort and if asked, we’ll naturally tick the ‘yes’ box but if we’re also told that the price of ensuring this would be to significantly raise the cost of a ticket, then suddenly we’re not so keen.
The poll would play out differently.

“I have prioritised calorie posting on menus as one of the key initiatives that will have a positive impact in addressing the problem of our rising levels of overweight and obesity,” stated the Minister.

His priorities here may need to be re-evaluated.

Nutritional Chef Lynda McFarland sees things differently.

“The ingredients and quality of food should be considered when choosing a meal, not just the calorie count,” she says, “For example, a 100g piece of salmon could have 200 calories, which is equivalent to 12 spoons of sugar or a fizzy drink, but people wouldn’t see the nutritional value of the salmon versus the fizzy drink, they would just see the calorie count.”
So it will change little in the mind of the consumer and is of dubious benefit to obesity reduction.

And as for labeling alcoholic drinks, don’t get me started….  Before you count the calories, Minister, count the cost.



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