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Are eating disorders on the rise with new UK government regulations?

On April 6th 2022, the UK government implemented a new legal regulation that requires all chain restaurants, cafes and takeaways (<250 employees) to print calorie labels on their menus in England. A refusal to abide by these rules will authorize functionaries to charge a £2500 fine.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in issues relating to weight gain. 63% of adults in England are overweight or obese. (Gov.uk) This has added to the already staggering £6.1billion spent by the NHS each year for obesity-related treatments. The Government has devised a plan to protect the nation's health and decrease the number of UK citizens who suffer from obesity.


The strategy starts with a reduction in unhealthy adverts, specifically before the watershed at 9 pm. This decreases the likelihood of children watching and keeps bad habits at bay from an early age. The next stage of the strategy is the one enforced above in the hopes that it will encourage the public to make ‘better’ healthier choices.


Could the problem be with eating outside? Eating out takes up 20-25% of adults’ daily recommended calorie intake which is two thousand calories for women and two thousand five hundred calories for men. Charities such as Diabetes UK are in support of the new legislation as 13.6 million people nationwide suffer from diabetes. Calorie counting can help prevent diabetes or lead current sufferers to go into remission.


Whilst there are many positive aspects to the new mandatory regulations, there is one main issue concerning the nation and that is; eating disorders. Calories, restricting them and obsessing over them can create new fears in those suffering from eating disorders. It could also hinder the recovery of people suffering and possibly aid the development of an eating disorder. People may not be inclined to eat out if there is a possibility of getting triggered by the new addition to the menu.


There will be small numbers next to each dish that children will begin to question when visiting restaurants. This could cause problems with hyper fixation the child develops which could, in turn, lead to disordered eating and potentially a more serious eating disorder. (openaccess government.org)


These regulations have also hit social media like a storm. Hazel (@AnLasair) tweeted: “Interesting how, despite being one of the most caloric things you can consume, alcohol is exempt from the #CaloriesOnMenus law.” Pubs that serve food such as the Wetherspoons chain, must include the calories on food menu items but not alcoholic beverages. (twitter.com/anlasair)


BeatED, an organization for eating disorders tweeted: “We’re extremely disappointed that the government is making calories on menus mandatory in England from 6 April. We know it causes anxiety for people affected by eating disorders. We know it can increase fixations for anyone with anorexia or bulimia.” (twitter.com/beatED)


However, the calorie labelling could ensure that businesses are offering their customers a healthier and lower-calorie dish rather than the higher calorie alternatives that are blindly consumed. Although, it could also mean that people are less inclined to eat out if there is a chance they could be triggered.


As there is already a traffic light labelling system on packaging in the UK, adding calories to menus isn’t deemed much different, at least not for the government.


The new law is not set to affect small, independent businesses that may suffer as a result of the new regulations. The government is planning on working closely with the local authorities to ensure the changes are executed in the smoothest way possible.


Is this a harmless addition to menu items? Or are eating disorders going to spike now that the calorie count is more accessible?


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Tags: law uklegislation uknews latestnews ukgovernment breakingnews calorielabelling uklaw



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