The British Hospitality Association welcomes the publication of the government’s Responsibility Deal which aims to improve health levels in the general public.
The BHA said that there were a number of ways in which this could be achieved, in particular:
1. By the industry providing a selection of attractive, healthy option dishes on all menus.
2. By reducing the salt content in prepared dishes without reducing taste, flavour or standard, and to eliminate the use of artificial trans fats.
3. By providing calorie information for standardised dishes and portions to assist consumers in making choices to manage their calorie intake levels.
Nutritional information and healthy options were part of the solution but the other significant element was lifestyle and exercise.
Ufi Ibrahim, BHA’s chief executive, said that it supported a voluntary scheme in which those restaurant and catering businesses that wanted to provide calorie information on their dishes were encouraged to do so.
“The industry recognises that one in six meals is eaten out-of-home, so it has a role to play in the government’s health campaign.
“Calorie counted dishes and healthy options will help consumers make healthy choices and where it is appropriate for restaurants to introduce them, we will encourage them to do so.”
She said the BHA recognised that calorie counting would pose technical and cost problems for all businesses and, in particular, for small, independent businesses and those which changed their menus regularly, but it was urging members to sign up voluntarily to as many of the pledges as they could.
“This will show the industry’s commitment to the programme and help to avoid a statutory approach which is possible if the voluntary approach is not widely taken up. I recognise that the government is absolutely committed to implementing the deal.”
She said that much had already been undertaken by the hospitality industry in providing healthy option dishes and reducing salt.
“Contractors and other caterers embarked on an ongoing salt, sugar and fat reduction programme some years ago. BHA members also took part in the Food Standards Agency early adopter’s trial by providing calorie information on menus for several months in 2009. She added, however, that behaviour change would not necessarily be achieved only by providing calorie-counted dishes.
“It is just as important for restaurants to continue to offer consumers a wide range of healthy dining choices,” she said.
The BHA has created a help line for members who need further advice and information (0207 404 7744) and has placed relevant information on its website (www.bha.org.uk).