(Media-Newswire.com) - Eighteen major catering companies, including many high street brands, will introduce calorie information on their menus for the first time.

The list of trailblazers, announced today by Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo and the Food Standards Agency, will start displaying calorie information from the end of April. The list includes workplace caterers, sit down and quick-service restaurants, theme parks and leisure attractions, pub restaurants, cafes and sandwich chains. This will benefit individuals and families who are trying to choose a healthier diet.

Companies involved include a number of well-known high street names and several major contract caterers:

Burger King
Compass Group UK and Ireland - in a number of Royal Mail staff restaurants
The Co-operative Expresso cafes
ISS Mediclean - in a number of London hospital restaurants
Marks & Spencer cafes
Chessington World of Adventures and Zoo, operated by Merlin Entertainments
Harvester restaurants and Scream pubs, operated by Mitchells & Butlers
Pizza Hut
Pret A Manger
Sainsbury’s cafes
Sodexo - in a number of client restaurants in its corporate and defence sectors
Tesco staff restaurants
Unilever staff restaurants ( in partnership with Sodexo )
Waitrose Cafes
7 Day Catering - in college restaurants
By June, more than 450 food outlets across the country will have introduced calorie information - some of these will be on a pilot basis. Each company has agreed to:

display calorie information for most food and drink they serve
print calorie information on menu boards, paper menus or on the edge of shelves
ensure the information is clear and easily visible at the point where people choose their food.
Making calorie information available at the point of choice is the first and simplest step, which will lead to more clarity for people when eating out.

Dawn Primarolo, Minister for Public Health, said: 'We know that people want to be able to see how many calories are in the food and drink they order when they eat out.

'I want to see more catering companies join this ground-breaking first group to help their customers make healthier choices.'

Tim Smith, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency said:

'We are pleased that such a diverse range of companies has agreed to work with us by introducing calorie labelling at the crucial point where their customers make a decision about what to eat.

'Our aim is to ensure that consumers have better information so they can make informed choices to improve their diet when eating out, whether that is a snack on the go, a meal in a staff restaurant or at a table being served by a waiter.'

Independent research will assess how easily customers understand and use the system and gather feedback from the restaurants themselves to look at practical issues and the costs involved in providing the information. Gathering this data will inform the next steps for a wider roll-out of calorie labelling on menus.

Research published by the Food Standards Agency last year showed that consumers would welcome simple, clear and visible nutrition information when eating out. This research followed a survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency in June 2008 that suggested 85% of consumers agreed that restaurants, pubs and cafes have a responsibility to make clear what is in the food they serve. More than 80% of respondents said that nutrition information would be most useful if provided at the point they choose to order food, such as on menus or menu boards.

The names of the 18 companies introducing calorie information on their menus are published today in the first annual report of the Government’s obesity strategy ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives – One Year On’. The report sets out the Government’s efforts to tackle obesity over the last year and plans going forward.

Speaking about the publication, Dawn Primarolo said: 'Today’s report builds on the bold ambition we set out in our obesity strategy 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives' last year.

'It reveals we’ve made a good start – there are early signs that we may be halting the rise in childhood obesity. But there’s still more to do and this report highlights the importance of working to tackle obesity in adults too.'

Children’s Minister Delyth Morgan said: 'We are all too aware of the health risks associated with adult obesity, which it why it is vital we act to prevent children, the adults of tomorrow, becoming obese. We must continue to help children lead healthy, active lifestyles and develop good eating habits which they can take into their adult lives. This is a complex challenge but we’ve made a great start with a revolution in the quality of school meals and the success of the PE and sport strategy, which means more children are playing sports at school than ever before.

'The report today outlines how we plan to go further. We are giving parents personal advice on how to prevent their children becoming obese through the Change4Life campaign, extending the mandatory nutritional standards to secondary and special schools this September and introducing an enhanced Healthy Schools programme to help schools do more to promote healthy habits. The new and refurbished play areas that are opening around the country will increase children’s opportunities to be active outside home and school.'
Notes to EditorsFor media enquiries please contact the Food Standards Agency on 020 7276 8888.
For information on Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives – One Year On please contact the Department of Health newsdesk on 0207 210 5221.
'Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives': A cross-Government Strategy for England’ includes a Healthy Food Code of Good Practice ( p18 ), which sets a challenge to industry as a whole to provide information on the nutritional content of food in a wide range of settings which is clear, effective and simple to understand.
The Food Standards Agency’s qualitative research into nutrition labelling in the out of home sector took place in November and December 2008 and consisted of 24 group discussions in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, plus two days of 'quali-hall' interviews ( short face-to-face qualitative interviews ). The research was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, managed by Central Office of Information ( COI ) and carried out by Navigator.
In the qualitative research, consumers said that they wanted simple information which they can easily act on at the point of decision when dining out. They said that they would like to see more comprehensive information available for those who require it. This could be either in the outlet e.g. a leaflet or somewhere that a future choice can be considered and contemplated e.g. on a company website. A number of restaurant chains, including some of those announced today, already provide information in their outlets or on company websites, regarding salt, fat and sugar in their products.
Food Standards Agency Communications Directorate commissioned questions on the TNS RSGB face to face omnibus in June 2008. Over 2,000 people were asked about the information they would like to help them make healthier choices when eating out of the home. Further detail can be found at the link below.
According to British Hospitality Association figures, the catering sector has seen sales triple between 1981 and 2005. The Food Standards Agency’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey ( NDNS ) shows men get 25% of total food energy intake and women get 21% of energy from eating out of the home.
The Food Standards Agency has published healthy eating commitments from 32 of the UK’s leading catering companies including workplace caterers, quick service restaurant, pub, coffee shop and sandwich chains. Between them these companies have the potential to positively influence more than 50 million customers they serve each week. The next stage of this activity will be publishing similar commitments from some of the country's largest family restaurant chains. For a full list of the companies involved and more information, see link below.
In April 2008, the New York City Board of Health passed a law which obliged some restaurants to list calories on their menus. The regulation applies to any chain restaurant that has 15 or more outlets anywhere in the US. This affects about ten per cent of the city’s restaurants and a third of the meals sold.