Amid staff shortages, volatile supply chains, allergen law changes, VAT rises and rent disputes, new government guidance confirms the scope of another consideration for the out of home sector.
From 6 April 2022, the Calorie Labelling Regulations will come into force and certain businesses in England will be required to provide consumers with kilocalorie information at the point of choice. Simply having this information available upon request is unlikely to be sufficient. Businesses will instead need to update all physical and digital point of sale material, including websites, apps, third party food-delivery platforms, print menus and boards. Failure to do so before the deadline may lead to repercussions: investigation and a fixed penalty notice requiring payment of £2,500, halved on prompt payment and doubled on late payment. Non-payment or non-compliance thereafter may then prompt criminal proceedings.
This change forms part of the Government's wider plan to tackle obesity and reduce the burden placed on the NHS through obesity-related illnesses by empowering consumers with the information required to make "healthy" decisions. Only time will tell whether that has the intended effect, but the more immediate result may be a poorly-timed increase of red-tape for businesses already reeling from the pandemic, with UKHospitality's call for a six month delay so far falling on deaf ears. Others have criticised the Regulations for doing nothing to address the harm calorie information may have for people with eating disorders by exacerbating feelings of anxiety and guilt (Beat have since published guidance which may assist).
The Regulations should be considered closely alongside the guidance to ensure that the finer detail and exemptions are taken account of. For example temporary items may be exempt altogether, allowing businesses to make seasonal offerings or take advantage of unexpected stock availability such as diverted food waste. Likewise, a customer can "have it their way" without passing a further burden to update calorie information contemporaneously, as the Regulations contain a carve out for additional condiments or customised items. Both are common-sense exceptions, though there is an open question of whether the Regulations do enough to ease the burden on business and allow for creativity and innovation in an already over-encumbered market.