Restaurants argue mandatory calorie counts won't help obesity problem

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurants Association of Ireland says Government is "going down the wrong road"

Restaurants argue mandatory calorie counts won't help obesity problem

Image: Ed Ou / AP/Press Association Images

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has declared itself "100% opposed" to the suggestion of mandatory calorie counts on menus found in the Government's new 10-year plan to tackle obesity.

RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins argued that such an introduction would have a "negligible" impact on Irish health and nutrition.

"For example," he said. "The calories are on the vast majority of the chain fast food restaurants. If you go into any of them, you'll see it on the menu board. Has it made a difference? No it hasn't. They're useless.

"When are we going to ban vending machines in schools? When are we going to introduce healthy eating education into schools?

"It's like we want to be the first people in the world to have done this: 'We'll go down in history as having done it.' Yet again, without having thought through how practical it is to implement."

Cummins believes introducing legislation for calorie posting would pose not only a practical problem for the average restaurant, but a financial one. He put the cost of implementing it at between €5,000 and €6,000.

"If you change a menu every day," he continued, "Then you have to change the calorie counting on it. So how do you go about getting that done every day?

"It'd take a couple of hours, per day, to do the calorie posting for a smaller business. And when you add up the per hours, per day, per week, per month, per year... I just think that they're going down the wrong road.

"It's not practical for individual restaurants to do this. It's not practical for a restaurant that changes its menu day-in, day-out. Is it practical for chain restaurants that have done it? Yes, because there are systems in place and the menu doesn't change throughout the year."

Asked whether he foresaw closures if the plan went ahead, he said:

"I would safely say that some businesses would think 'well why am I doing this?' There's easier ways to make money, and they'll decide on changing their business to something else."

'I'll just be making it up'

Joining George Hook on High Noon, Dublin restaurateur Oliver Dunne echoed Cummins' sentiments.

"It's ludicrous," the owner of the Michelin-starred Bon Appetite said.

"There's not another country in the world that has imposed – or suggested to impose – this on a blanket-scale across all restaurants.

"It's just not going to happen and, if it is enforced, it's not going to be factual information so what's the point? There's better things to spend the money on. Restaurants do not operate like that. And can't."

Dunne revealed that he had actually added a 'Fit Food' section to his menu two years ago, where he would provide the calorie and nutritional information of three starters and three mains. Coincidentally, the restaurant had taken the decision this week to end that because they were "wasting too much time promoting it" for no return.

Not that he was too concerned he'll be forced to reintroduce it on a wider scale anytime soon...

"This comes about every year, nothing has been done about it. It's just all talk. It can't be policed, therefore it won't be. And I for one will tell you, if this comes into place, in Bon Appetite, Cleaver East, now Beef & Lobster.. I'll just be making them up."