Employers commit to calorie labelling in staff canteens

Major employers have pledged to introduce menus with nutritional and calorific information in their staff canteens in a bid to help employees make informed choices about what they eat and to address the UK’s obesity problem.

Consumer goods giant Unilever and food company Nestle were among 21 big names that took part in a Food Standard Agency pilot last year to bring in food labelling in staff restaurants.

It proved so popular with staff that the companies are now planning to make the detailed menus a permanent feature.

Unilever’s HR director confirmed plans to roll out nutritional food labelling in all of its canteens by the end of the year.

Alan Walters, vice-president of HR, Unilever UK & Ireland, which employs more than 7,500 people, told Personnel Today that the scheme had been well received by staff.

“We spend so much time in work and most people eat one or two meals a day while at work,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to make a real impact and [aid] informed decision making by having labelling.”

Nestle trialled the food labelling at its headquarters last summer but decided to keep it going after the pilot ended.

Hayley Smith, nutritionist at the Kit Kat manufacturer, said: “We are tweaking it to make sure it’s working properly. Because of the scale of the catering we offer – pre-packaged, snacks, crisps, hot dishes prepared by our chefs, a salad bar and sandwich deli bar – there’s a real variety, which is fairly complicated when it comes to calculating information. We’re refining that. It’s part of our long-term strategy and we’ll be looking at where we go to next with our nine sites.”

A Food Standards Agency spokeswoman said: “Many people eat regularly in their workplace canteen/restaurant and we are working with a number of them – including Unilever’s caterer Sodexo – the help encourage the provision of healthier food and choices.

“We welcome the introduction of food labelling as, among other things, it can make a real difference in helping people to choose healthier options.”

A consultation on how calorie information should appear on menus is due to close on 11 March.

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