A Government plan to add calorie counts to menus will negatively affect people with eating disorders, a charity warned, as it said hundreds of sufferers have contacted it to voice their concerns.
Beat carried out a survey of 1,118 people with an existing or past eating disorder, or those caring for them, and found that 93% felt the move would have a negative or very negative impact on them.
As part of the Queen’s Speech earlier this month, the Government announced plans for restaurants, cafes and pubs with more than 250 employees to put calorie details on their menus.
Some 89% of those polled by Beat said they did not support the introduction of mandatory calorie labelling.
One respondent said: “The thought of seeing the calories on menus makes me feel so sick, and sends me straight back into the depths of my eating disorder.
“It’s going to affect so many people and, instead of helping, will only make the mental health crisis worse.”
A parent said: “Going out to eat during my daughter’s recovery was a big step. Without doubt, having calories printed on the menu would have made this virtually impossible. The two together would not have worked.”
Beat has launched a new campaign asking members of the public to write to their MP to voice concerns, with more than 4,000 people taking part so far.
Tom Quinn, Beat’s director of external affairs, said: “The announcement to mandate calorie labelling on menus has been devastating for so many of the people we support, with hundreds reaching out to us voicing their concern.
“There’s a distinct lack of evidence that putting calories on menus works to reduce obesity in the general population, but at the same time it is clear that calorie labelling has the potential to cause huge harm to people affected by eating disorders.
“The needs of people with eating disorders have not been properly considered by the Government.
‘We have seen a 195% increase in contact to our helpline over the past year, with more people than ever before reporting becoming unwell for the first time or relapsing.
“Putting calories on menus will only stand to exacerbate the pain and distress people with eating disorders have experienced.
‘Parliamentarians must listen to the scientific evidence, healthcare professionals and the voices of people with lived experience and immediately scrap this policy.”