Counting the cost of calories on menus

has obesity become such a huge issue in Ireland that we now need resturants and hotels to tell us how many calories we are puuting into our mouths at each sitting?

has obesity become such a huge issue in Ireland that we now need resturants and hotels to tell us how many calories we are puuting into our mouths at each sitting?

This is the issue that arose this week following the restaurants and hotels associations coming out strongly about proposals by the Minister for Health saying to itemise the calorie count on menus would cost in the region of €5,000.

Minister James Reilly has confirmed that he will bring forward this mandatory legislation forcing Irish restaurants to comply but the move has met with mixed reaction.

Yes, we all know there is a growing problem with obesity in Ireland. The statistics speak plainly for themselves. Since 1990 to 2011 obesity has almost doubled amongst Irish women and trebled among men.

However there is growing concern that the problem is impacting on our children’s health. Of children aged 3 years, one in four are overweight, one in five school children in the 5-12 year bracket is also overweight while one in five teenagers aged 13-17 years display similar problems. However in adults aged 18-64 years three out of five of us are overweight putting Ireland second in the table in Europe for obesity.

But will numbers on menus really make a difference. Many believe so as they can now make healthier lifestyle choices and perhaps realise that there is a lot more to what they are eating than initially thought.

However the mandate by the Minister could cause huge issues for restaurants. For those who change their menu on a daily basis it will be a nightmare.

Think of the Sunday carvery - can the chef say in any definite way how many calories you have on your plate as he dishes out from the various food containers.

But such government moves really raises questions as to our own personal responsibility. Have we moved so far away from this that we now need to be told what to eat. Generally we all know what is good and bad for us. We know that too much of a certain thing is going to have repercussions. Yet these are the choices we make and ones we we have to take responsibility for.

None of us want to see a nanny state developing but if we continue to look to our leaders to make our choices then that is what we will have. Sometimes it is nice to be in the dark - to have a bit of indulgence without the guilt hitting you in the form of numbers in black type. But all in moderation.

Yes the essence of the minister’s move is a good one but perhaps he has taken it too far. Surely people have to look to themselves and make up their own minds as to what to eat and what not, without expecting hard-pressed business people to take on that burden.