Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has called for significant changes to make food outside of the home healthier.

FSS believes implementing these evidence-based recommendations is a positive and necessary step towards shaping the Scottish Government’s Out of Home Strategy to improve public health.

At its public meeting, FSS’s board considered the research findings and agreed a package of recommendations aimed at helping to tackle Scotland’s obesity crisis and poor diet, and support progress towards Scotland’s dietary goals.

These include:

  • Requiring food businesses to display calorie contents when people are choosing what to eat out of home, for example on menus, when buying food ‘on the go’, and when ordering a takeaway / home delivery
  • Improving the range of healthy food and drink choices available on children’s menus
  • Setting a standard for healthier out of home food with which the public sector must comply to set the best example

FSS states these recommendations have strong public support – a recent consultation showed that 68% of those who responded were in favour of mandatory calorie labelling; people want healthier menu choices for their children; and 81% agree that the public sector should lead the way in improving food out of home.

Ross Finnie, chair of Food Standards Scotland, said: “Almost everybody – 98% of us – in Scotland eats out, and around 25% of all our calories now comes from the food we eat out of home. In the absence of calorie information, our most popular choices are those which are less healthy items of confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, chips, crisps and sugary drinks.

“With two out of three people either overweight or obese in Scotland and a sharp increase in the volume of takeaways being ordered, action is needed to transform the current food environment for our health.

“The health and wellbeing of people in Scotland continues to be at the heart of what we do at Food Standards Scotland. Consumers should have the information they need to make choices and have a right to know the calories in the food they’re eating out of home. Evidence shows that when people are aware of calorie content in food, it can influence their choices towards lower calorie options and encourages businesses to make the food they offer healthier.

“Eating out is now part of our everyday experience and is not always a treat as it was in the past, but we also know that calorie consumption out of home is often more than calories consumed in the home. Many popular out of home choices, such as burger meals and fish and chips can also contain nearly all of our recommended daily calories in one meal alone.

“That is why this sector is so important in tackling our health crisis. Government, individuals and industry have a responsibility to change the current diet, and we expect the out of home sector to be helping drive that change. It can and should act now, and should not be waiting for government regulation to make changes.”