A LARNE cafe is one of the first businesses in Northern Ireland to join a scheme that will see local food outlets displaying calorie information on menus and takeaway food.
The Caloriewise initiative, launched by The Food Standards Agency (FSA), is a drive to encourage consumers to make more informed choices when eating out or on-the-go.
And The streat in Larne is one of only eight food outlets in the province trialling the new scheme.
Speaking at the launch event, Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA congratulated the organisations which have had “the foresight and vision” to participate in the pilot scheme, stating that he recognises the effort and commitment required to make it a success.
The Minister said: “Protecting public health is my department’s number one priority.
“You only have to look at the figures to appreciate the enormous challenge we are facing: in Northern Ireland around six out of every 10 adults are either overweight or obese.
“We have set ourselves challenging targets in the strategy, A Fitter Future for All, not only to stop the rise in obesity levels but to actively reduce them over the next three years.
“This will not be an easy process and will require changes in our lifestyles and behaviours.
“The Caloriewise scheme gives consumers the power to make informed choices. With so many of us eating on the move now, anything which raises awareness of the healthier choices we can make is a good thing.
“I would like to congratulate the Food Standards Agency and the participating businesses in Northern Ireland for working in partnership to deliver real benefits for consumers and I would urge other businesses to pick up this mantle and work with the FSA in order to have a positive impact on your customers’ health,” Mr Poots added.
Maria Jennings, head of dietary health at the Food Standards Agency in NI said: “In Northern Ireland, eight out of 10 of us eat outside the home every week, accounting for one in six meals.
“For all of these occasions, we often have no idea how many calories we are consuming. Eating out clearly presents a major information gap for customers.
“Caloriewise is not just about the occasional dining out experience, but the more frequent occasions like visiting a sandwich bar for lunch on the run, meeting a friend for coffee or regular eating in a workplace canteen.”
Research published by the FSA in March 2011 revealed that there is a lack of knowledge around the recommended calorie intake for maintaining a healthy weight: for men 2500 calories and for women 2000 calories a day.
This need for education and awareness is something the FSA has recognised with its new campaign.
Businesses involved in the pilot scheme, which will run for six months, will display the calorie content of items clearly and prominently at the point of choice, in menus and on menu boards. Businesses signed up include The streat, Sodexo Catering, Botanic Inns, Aramark, and Mount Charles catering, as well as three local healthcare trusts.
The programme will be evaluated by the FSA to consider practical issues for businesses as well as consumer reactions and understanding of the scheme.