“I love a cheeky Nando’s,” says Clemmie Moodie in The Sun. “What I don’t love is being told my 10-wing roulette and sweet potato wedges with garlic Perinaise contain 1,261 calories.” That, alas, is the depressing reality of the government’s “latest diktat to curb obesity”. Under the plan, which came into effect last week, all restaurant businesses with more than 250 employees must publish how many calories their dishes contain. Ministers argue that we already have calorie counts on supermarket labels, so why not restaurant menus too? But “no one goes to Tesco for a treat”. Restaurants are meant to be “a fun, indulgent, sensory experience”. You go out to have a nice time, not count calories.
The new rules also carry a more serious risk – that they’ll create “an eating disorder epidemic”. This is already a massive problem among youngsters: there are almost 5,000 children in the UK aged between five and 10 with anorexia; the number of under-20s admitted to hospital with eating disorders has jumped to more than 3,200, nearly 50% up from last year. During my teenage years at an all-girls’ school, “I gave anorexia, and then bulimia, a good crack”. But I dread to think what state I’d be in now had there been calories on restaurant menus. “In an asylum, probably.” The government is right to try to address our obesity problem. But this “nanny-state” scheme isn’t the solution.