An anorexia survivor has slammed new government legislation that requires restaurants, takeaways and cafes to display calorie information on their menus in a bid to promote ‘healthy eating’. Victoria Spence, 27, from Worsley, was diagnosed with two different eating disorders as a teenager and has warned the new rules will lead to a spiral of eating disorders in the UK.
She also fears that those who already have an unhealthy relationship with food will be completely discouraged from going out to dinner. The changes, which were introduced from April 6 in a bid to tackle the problem of obesity in the UK, now make it a legal requirement for large companies with more than 250 employees to display the figures calories on menus, online menus and third-party takeaways. apps.
Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said the new rules were ‘crucial’ to help give people the information they need to ‘maintain a healthier weight’, as nearly two-thirds of adults in England are estimated to are overweight or living with obesity. But activists and survivors fear the legislation will have a ‘heartbreaking’ impact and cause more people to become ‘fixed’ on food.
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Around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder – a number which charity BEAT says has been exacerbated by the lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic. They fear the new rules could lead to a fixation on calorie restriction for people with anorexia and bulimia, or increase feelings of guilt for people with binge eating.
Victoria has been free of her eating disorder for seven years, but says she would have found the new legislation extremely triggering when she was sick. Addressing the MEN she said: “I know if I had my eating disorder now and saw something was 500 calories, but I could get something for 300 calories, I definitely would.
“With an eating disorder, you’re constantly looking to eat as few calories as possible,” she said. “I think the new calorie labeling rules are absolutely ridiculous. Usually when someone goes out to eat, it’s special and not your everyday thing.
“Even for people who don’t have an eating disorder, this is going to cause so many people to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. For someone with an eating disorder, going out to eat is already a challenge, so coming out and then being in a position where all these numbers are there, it’s going to be so overwhelming. I imagine it’s going to keep a lot of people out. It’s going to make eating disorders absolutely prevalent.
Victoria says she is also concerned about the message the new rules send to the people they are meant to target. “It’s basically shaming them,” she said. “Shaming someone will never change their lifestyle in a positive way. Money could be so much better spent developing mental health treatments to help people overcome the thought processes behind these disorders.
“I don’t understand the system either, because the calorie count of a food doesn’t indicate how healthy it is. A bowl of chips may have fewer calories than a bowl of Poke, but that doesn’t mean not that it’s best for you.”
Adam Fare, 25, has suffered from an eating disorder for 14 years and says the new policy is “disproportionately harmful” for people with conditions such as bulimia and binge eating. Adam, from Cumbria, said the new legislation would prevent him from eating out and ordering takeaway.
“It creates a culture of restrictive eating,” he said. “We live in a time when eating disorders are increasing exponentially and this will cause people to compensate for what they eat more often by restricting food later. It will also allow people to set up unhealthy habits they didn’t have before, even people without an eating disorder. It will also impact their lives.”
Rachel Egan, who is recovering from an eating disorder, said she visited a restaurant that had adopted the new calorie labels on its menu and faced a battle between choosing what she wanted to eat and what had the fewest calories. She wrote on Twitter: “I had to eat out with a calorie labeled menu last night. I based my two options on low calorie options. I chose something I didn’t like not really and i only ate half of it to save calories.i am underweight and have ED.hope thats what they wanted.
Lucy Mae, who is recovering from an eating disorder, said she was now “terrified” to eat again after the new legislation was announced. “I think this legislation is utterly ridiculous and irresponsible. As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder and is still fighting for a full recovery, I am so disappointed that our government has taken this decision,” she said.
“We’re going to see a huge increase in eating disorders, not a decrease in obesity. What about providing calorie information on demand, not the other way around? I have scared to eat out again because I know my choice will be based on calorie content, not what I want to eat.”
Tom Quinn, Beat’s external affairs director, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the government is making calories on menus compulsory in England from April 6, despite evidence it is causing anxiety and distress. in people with eating disorders.
“We know from the people we support that including calories in menus can contribute to the worsening of harmful thoughts and behaviors related to eating disorders, for example, it can increase fixation on food restriction. calories for people with anorexia or bulimia, or increase feelings of guilt for people with binge eating.There is also very little evidence that the legislation will change the eating habits of the general population.
“1.25million people in the UK have an eating disorder, and sadly we know the pandemic has contributed to more people than ever before needing help with these serious mental illnesses. Beat has continually called on the government to consider the impact on those affected by eating eating disorders and to take an evidence-based approach when creating health policy. to consult clinicians and experienced eating disorder experts every step of the way.
The legislation will be enforced by local authorities, with the Department of Health and Social Care supporting them with the additional costs of enforcing the policy. Local authorities are encouraged to first have conversations with companies that are not complying with the law. Local authorities can issue improvement notices. Anyone who fails to comply with a notice could be guilty of an offense and could be fined £2,500.
Types of businesses covered by the requirement include: restaurants, fast food outlets, cafes, pubs and supermarkets, home delivery services and third-party apps selling food that fall within the scope legislation, cafes and takeaways in large stores and venues, such as supermarkets, department stores and entertainment venues such as cinemas.
Specialty food shops, delicatessens, confectioneries and bakeries, mass catering – for example, for events and canteens, and domestic transport businesses, including airplanes, trains, ferries and d other forms of water transport in the UK.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Clear food labeling plays an important role in helping people make healthier choices for themselves and their families. We have carefully considered the points from a wide range of experts in response to our public consultations on calorie labeling.
“The regulations allow companies to provide menus without calorie information at the request of the customer. This means that people who find it more difficult to consult calorie information may be able to avoid this information when dining. with companies that can offer a menu without calorie labeling.
“We will continue to assess the impact of out-of-home calorie labeling on the population, including people with an eating disorder.”