Consultation launched on new strategy to combat obesity in Wales
The Welsh government is urging people to participate in a public consultation on its plans for a new 10-year strategy to prevent and reduce obesity across Wales.
Among the proposals set out in the Healthy Food Environment consultation document is the introduction of mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and pubs, limits on refills and portion size of sugary soft drinks, and legislation to restrict the promotion of high fat, salt or sugar products.
The consultation notes that food eaten outside of the home makes up 20% to 25% of adult calorie intake and that eating out frequently, including buying takeaway meals, contributes to an overconsumption of calories.
“A further issue with restaurant and takeaway food is that customers tend to underestimate the number of calories in large portions and calorie dense meals,” it adds.
“Portions of food or drink eaten out or as takeaway meals typically contain twice as many calories as their equivalent bought in a shop.”
Wales has recorded a 48% rise in fast food outlets from 2010 to 2018, beating the UK average increase of 34%.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan described obesity as “one of our most significant generational challenges” in the document, adding, “we know that to make a real impact we have to explore many different ways to influence behaviours.
“This includes shifting our food environment to one which encourages us to make positive choices for our health.
“We want to use this consultation as an opportunity to discuss measures to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
“I firmly believe that achieving and sustaining a healthy weight is not solely about willpower.
“Choosing a healthy diet has been made increasingly more difficult as our lives and ways of living have changed to suit modern living,” she added.
“Our food offers have evolved in a way which has meant that we are exposed to foods which are cheap, convenient and difficult to resist. Much of this food is high in fat, sugar or salt, and we know that as a nation we consume too much food which is damaging our health.
“Many of these foods provide empty calories and are driving us towards eating in a way which is not sustainable.
“I want us to consider how we can reset this dynamic.”
The Consultation proposes that calorie labelling and restrictions on the sale of sugary drinks would be introduced to all size of restaurants, cafes, takeaways and other caterers in Wales, as well as workplaces, hospitals (excluding in-patient food), prisons, supermarket cafes, train and bus station cafes, but not in schools, colleges and entertainment venues.
Calorie labelling in hospitality business in England with more than 250 employees became compulsory on 6 April, while Scotland is currently in the middle of a consultation process to add the number of calories to menus in cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
David Chapman, executive director for UKHospitality, Wales, urged hospitality businesses to engage in the consultations.
“Following the recent introduction of calorie labelling in England, and ongoing consultation in Scotland, it is important that the Welsh Government hears views from businesses on the impact such a scheme will have on them and their customers,” he told the Caterer magazine.
“Initial experience from England suggests that some unintended consequences have arisen, for example people with eating disorders becoming uncomfortable visiting hospitality premises, and waste caused from constantly evolving menus – and learnings should be taken from this.
“Our businesses are still very fragile as they strive to rebuild after the pandemic – they need time to recover, and if a scheme is introduced it must be consistent across the whole of the UK to prevent further burdens and costs on the sector”.
The consultation runs until 1 September and a response will be published in autumn 2022.
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