Friday 24 November 2017

Doctors and chefs divided over new move to put calorie counts on menus

Derry Clarke
Derry Clarke
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

Top chefs and doctors are sharply divided over the Government's move to force restaurants to put calorie counts on menus.

Experts at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland welcomed the move they said would have a direct impact on the country's obesity crisis.

"I am thrilled at this incredibly positive step forward in tackling the obesity problem in Ireland," said Professor Donal O'Shea, a consultant endocrinologist at Loughlinstown Hospital's weight clinic and co-chair of RCPI policy group on obesity.

"Evidence has shown that making people aware of calorie content can help them to make more informed, healthier decisions about the foods they eat."

The Government signed off this week on plans to force restaurants, takeaways and food service outlets to post calorie details of all meals beside the price, with new laws expected to come into force in 2016.

But Michelin-starred chef Derry Clarke said he was 100pc against the move, which was "past ridiculous".

"I did a week's trial of putting calories on menus last November and every single customer hated it," he said.

"If you want people to lose weight then tax sofas, tax TVs and laptops. It's not all about calories, it's about moving. I've lost two-and-a-half stone eating the exact same calorie intake because I got up off my behind and got moving on a pushbike and going to the gym."

Award-winning chef Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit said it was nonsense, as chefs added ingredients as they cooked so figures couldn't be accurate.

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said his phone lines were hopping with calls from chefs furious about the move.

"This will destroy food tourism and creativity, we'll be back to meals of peas, carrots, mashed potato and a slice of beef because this will hamper creativity so much," he said.

The Irish Hotels Federation opposed mandatory labelling as unworkable for hotels and guesthouses given daily menu changes.

But Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he was bringing the rules in as the latest figures show two in every three adults and one in four children are overweight or obese.

He said research showed 95pc of consumers wanted calories displayed but only 8pc of restaurants showed them.

"Giving calorie details on menus is a very simple but effective way of encouraging people to choose a healthier option," he said.

Irish Independent

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