Calorie Caps Could Stir Up Safety and Insurance Changes in the Food Sector

A new set of calorie limits will soon govern all food served in restaurants, pubs, cafes and all other eateries, along with supermarket ready-meals, as British health officials set about combatting the increasing rates of obesity in the UK and its heavy strain on the NHS.

In 2019, Public Health England will publish its final guidelines on this topic, with proposed calorie limits being implemented in various food categories. For example, calorie limits such as 544 for all convenience meals, 952 for all restaurant or pub mains, 550 for sandwiches, 550 for salad mains, 1040 for pizza, 302 for chips and 134 for an onion bhaji, may come into force.

This drastic policy serves as part of Public Health England’s drive to cut calories within food products by 20% by 2024, as it seeks to tackle the nation’s shocking obesity trends. Pupils who are overweight now encompass a quarter of all children in reception classes and one-in-three of those aged between 10 and 11 years.

The new calorie proposals are already causing a stir, with Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stating the legislation will be a significant worry for independent cafes and eateries to cope with, on top of all the other legislation with which they need to comply.

Some believe that these bureaucratic attempts to regulate calorie intake will be ineffectual and that the only way to encourage weight loss, is to ask individuals and concerned parents to take the initiative.

Talk of the possibility of changing or altering ingredients in recipes to be able to comply with the new proposed limits are already circulating around the hospitality sector. This could have ramifications for health and safety in food businesses, if staff suddenly have to start using new catering equipment, or start tinkering with recipes in such a way as to potentially introduce new allergens in lower-calorie versions of normal menu items.

With the Sugar Tax already governing ingredients in soft drinks, there is a strong possibility that the new calorie caps will lead to menu revolution and huge changes in the sector that could lead to turmoil.

With new legislation comes new potential lawsuits. To avoid this, food businesses and manufacturers should now be looking to get everything in order, to ensure that calories have been calculated accurately and to introduce new cooking methods/equipment that will provide British diners with healthier food.

Kitchens may well need to be redesigned to accommodate equipment that can cater for the new requirements, with grills, combi-ovens and steamers being just some of the equipment capable of producing lower-calorie dishes, and fryers perhaps becoming less useful within the overall scheme of things. Any new kitchen set-up, will create a new work flow, which in turn can create new hazards, so health and safety procedures will need to be revised and robust risk assessments put in place.

As well as potentially having to call on the help of a health and safety expert, catering businesses may also have to review their insurance cover to see that it offers the right protection for any new equipment purchased. Checking liability limits and the amount of legal expenses cover offered with the insurance policy may also be a wise move, if there is any chance of litigation due to either ingredients or wrong calorie calculations.

It is vital that hospitality providers and ready-meal manufacturers, ensure the food they produce is safe, but also that the cost of new equipment purchased is added to the current sum insured, to cover potential losses from fire, flood, theft, or any other incidents.

If you need help with this, right now, or at the eleventh hour, if forced to act, please get in touch.