Is Your Business Addressing the “Health” in Food Health and Safety?

Is Your Business Addressing the “Health” in Food Health and Safety?

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care’s mission is to help people to live more independent, healthier lives for longer. Their priorities in achieving this include overcoming public health challenges, one of the most important being the UK’s obesity crisis.

Alongside legal changes that restrict the promotion of unhealthy foods in stores, the government is increasing responsibilities amongst restauranteurs and food businesses regarding publicising the calorie content of their food.

The food industry’s responsibility to help consumers stay healthy goes beyond food hygeine. The part the food insutry plays in curbing the obesity epidemic will be cemented through the introduction of calorie labelling laws this spring.

Calorie labelling laws come into force in 6 April 2022

From 6 April 2022, all businesses who sell food and drink that is prepared and sold for immediate consumption will now need to display calorie information to consumers. It’s already a legal requirement for all Pre-Packaged for Direct Sale (PPDS) food and drink items to display nutritional information, including calories per portion and per 100g. The new laws extend the calorie-labelling element to non-prepacked food.

The government hopes that by exposing the truth about the calorie content of food in the out-of-home sector, consumers will have more information to make informed choices about what they are eating and drinking.

If you knew that an average fry-up contains about half of an average man’s calorie quota for an entire day at 1,300 calories, or that the average burger and chips comes in at just shy of 1,000 calories would you think twice before ordering that menu item? The hope is that the impact of seeing those numbers in black and white should positively influence consumer behaviour from a healthcare perspective.

Displaying calorie information is only the first step for businesses

This mandatory exposure of the true calorie values of menu items have highlighted that food businesses must respond with more than mere compliance to the new laws. The predicted change in consumer mindset and behaviours prophesises a new era of ethically responsible food provision for the UK public.

Food businesses have a duty to ensure they are thinking carefully about providing healthier options to their customers. Not only for legal and compliance reasons, but to respond to shifting consumer expectations and moral obligation.

Here is the set of measures we recommended to food proprieters to ensure they have the health as well as the safety of their customers at the centre of their business.

  • Reduce portion size – research suggests that a simple reduction in portion sizes, particularly in fast food restaurants, could make a huge contribution to reducing the levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduce fats and frying – reducing the consumption of oils and fats in food is critical to reducing the overall calorie content. Trans fats, in particular, carry heart disease risks. Using trans-fat free oils and wherever possible pan-frying rather than deep frying will help. Choosing to grill, bake, poach or steam food over frying can reduce oil conumption and contribute to cost savings, too.

Photo by Wine Dharma on Unsplash

  • Reduce salt – Action on Salt reports that up to 75% of the salt we consume comes from processed foods or those eaten out of the home, rather than what we add to our plates at dinner time. Excess salt leads to high blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and heart disease in later life and is the world’s most common cause of death. Adding flavour through herbs, spices, heat, citrus or flavours from the allium family (garlic, onion, chive, shallots etc) as well as through cooking practises can all reduce the need to add salt.
  • Avoid or reduce sugar – people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes must be vigilant when eating out to avoid excess sugar. Excess sugar isn’t good for anyone, and sugar that is consumed but not used as energy turns to fat. Avoid adding sugar to sauces and dressings and reduce use of condiments and processed ingredients. Use wholefoods wherever possible.
  • Actively promote healthier options – actively promoting healthy options, and not only in January, is a way that restaurants can take direct responsiblity for the health of their patrons. If you do have the opportunity to influence your customers, make that influence positive.
  • Stop promoting unhealthy food with reduced prices or sophisticated marketing strategies – the government have passed legislation making it illegal to promote unhealthy food products in stores. This applies to both price reductions, multi-buy offers and displaying these items in key locations like end aisles, checkouts and entrances. Additioanlly, free refills of sugary drinks in the out of home sector will be banned. It’s only a matter of time before the eating-out sector will be hit with the same treatment – so get ahead of the game now.

Everyone’s Responsibility

Aside from the short-term health responsibilities food businesses have to consumers, the nation’s long-term health also lies in the hands of the food industry. The nation has long been eating itself to death, and as we evolve so to does our understanding of the ethical pitfalls of proifiting from disease.

All providers of food products have an obligation to empower decision-making for all UK consumers. Call us to find out more about how we can help keep your customers healthy.