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Restaurants with nutritional info on menus serve healthier food

Eateries that share nutritional information on menus were found to have 45% less fat and 60% less salt than those that don’t.

Image: Shutterstock/AhBoon.Net

RESTAURANTS THAT DISPLAY nutritional information on their menus serve food that has less fat and salt in it than their counterparts who do not provide the information, new research has found.

Labelling on restaurant menus is regularly proposed as a measure to improve people’s diets, but previous research indicated that it has only a modest influence on what customers actually order.

However, a fresh study from the University of Cambridge has found that menu labelling could cause restaurants to serve healthier food, thereby passively having a positive influence on what people eat. 

The researchers examined the menus of the 100 most popular restaurant chains in the UK, where labelling is not mandatory.

They found that just 13 of the chains provided nutritional information in their restaurants but those that did had on average 45% less fat and 60% less salt in their meals than their competitors. 

They say that labelling could encourage restaurants to change the content of their food and also that those chains with ‘healthier’ offerings are more likely to display it on their menus.

“It suggests that on the whole, restaurants that provide information on calories on menus also serve healthier food, in terms of fat and salt levels,” researcher Dolly Theis said.

As well as providing useful information for customers, mandatory menu labelling could also encourage restaurants to improve the nutritional quality of their menus. 

Calorie counts on menus has long been mooted in Ireland, with the Food Safety Authority launching a national consultation on it back in 2012.

Health minister Simon Harris committed to legislate for calorie posting in 2016 and then revisited it last February when he said that he plans to publish legislation before the end of the year.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland has long opposed the move, saying it’s not practical and will risk job losses.  “As well as being an unfair burden on restaurants, calories on menus may not actually reflect the true nutritional value of a dish,” it says.

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Ceimin Burke

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