Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about proposals for mandatory calorie labelling and the potential impact on people with eating disorders.
As you know, the Government has proposed that large businesses should be required to display calorie information on menus and food labels. Ministers said the policy will form part of the Government’s wider strategy to tackle obesity and help people to make more informed, healthier choices when eating food out or ordering takeaways.
I recognise concerns raised by people living with eating disorders and charities such as Beat that mandating calorie labelling may have a detrimental impact on those with, or at risk of developing, eating disorders.
The rates of both eating disorders and obesity are increasing across the country. While concerted action is required to tackle obesity, I agree with you that this should be done in a sensitive way that considers the potential consequences for people living with eating disorders.
I believe the Government should take a holistic approach to tackle the rising prevalence of obesity. The UK has one of the worst childhood obesity rates in Western Europe and the gap between children from the most and least deprived backgrounds is rising. Action is needed to protect children from junk food marketing with restrictions on advertising, alongside the promotion of healthy food choices in shops and supermarkets. More widely, I believe Ministers must reverse cuts to public health funding to ensure that community services can support people to live healthier lives.
While there are suggestions that mandatory calorie labelling can have a positive impact on reducing obesity rates, the evidence is mixed. To be confident that this is the right approach, I believe the Government must consult with people affected by eating disorders, charities, and wider stakeholders before taking forward its proposals.