Voluntary implemention of Calories on menus will cost each restaurant €5,000

Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly’s proposed changes of putting calories on menus will cost each restaurant an estimated €5,000. At a time when restaurants are trying to create new jobs as well as saving existing ones, extra costs don’t need to be placed on them.

Today Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly confirmed that he will bring forward mandatory legislation forcing restaurants to display calorie counts on their menus that will cost the industry €110 million, say the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Reilly said “Voluntary for now, but if people don’t come to the party, I will legislate.”

The move will cripple the restaurants industry at a time where revenues are 20% down on 2011, and one restaurant a day is closing, says Adrian Cummins, Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

“How does the Minister for Health and his Department suggest that we pay for this without having to absorb the cost? It’s not easy for any business to cough up €5,000 in the morning. The banks aren’t lending any money.”

Mr Cummins reiterated that the proposals are an unnecessary burden on the restaurant owners, as the measures would be virtually impossible to monitor.

“How does the government propose that this will be monitored? Will inspectors be paid to eat out in all of Ireland’s 22,000 food outlets and check if each menu has calorie counts on them? Any chef will tell you that menus in restaurants vary from day-to-day and therefore calorie counting would be highly inaccurate anyway.”

The Restaurants Association of Ireland welcomes that the calorie counts on menus is a voluntary regime, but questions needs to be asked regarded the resources provided in recommendation six of the report towards support for the restaurant sector.

The report outlines that:

Only 18% of people in favour of calories on menus want them in Fine- Dining restaurants
Only 26% in Gastro-pubs

The Food Safety Authority said at the launch that they will develop software, hold seminars and develop courses for restaurants to help them implement the changes, but so far all the details are sketchy and unclear.

Nutritional chef Lynda McFarland supports the Restaurants Association of Ireland’s stance, saying that “Calorie-counts can be very mis-leading, as they do not represent the nutritional contents of the food.

The ingredients and quality of food should be considered when choosing a meal, not just the calorie count. For example, a 100g piece of salmon could have 200 calories, which is equivalent to twelve 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.

The emphasis really has to be on educating people about quality food and ingredients if the government is serious about tackling obesity.”

Mr Cummins shares this common sense approach to healthy eating, and believes that restaurants are not the cause of Ireland’s weight problems. “People are rarely eating out in these bleak times. It’s a rare treat for them, and the last thing they want is to be made feel guilty or conscious of enjoying a meal.”

Calorie counts on menus have already been introduced in the United States, with disastrous results. Five out of six customers paid no attention to the information, according to a study by New York University.

It cost Bay Restaurant, Clontarf €10,000 to implement the calorie counts on their menu.
The New York University study was carried out by Lynn D. Silver in 2011.

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