Environmental Health Teams from Antrim and Newtownabbey, Mid and East Antrim, Mid Ulster and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councils along with the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA) were delighted to see their efforts come to fruition when the Northern Health and Social Care Trust was recently awarded the Calorie Wise award.
Delivered in partnership by the FSA and local councils, Calorie Wise is a free and voluntary scheme which encourages food businesses to display calorie information clearly and prominently on their menu, enabling customers to make informed food choices when eating out and on the go.
As the first Trust in Northern Ireland to have introduced the Calorie Wise scheme to its catering facilities at Antrim Area, Whiteabbey, Holywell, Mid-Ulster, Braid Valley and Causeway Hospitals, their voluntary commitment serves as proof of the Trusts ongoing dedication to the health and well-being of its staff, visitors and patients.
Food and You
The innovative scheme hopes to meet the growing demand for calorie labelling as noted in the FSA’s Food & You survey (2016) which highlights that 78% of people in Northern Ireland would like to see healthier options when eating out. Calorie labelling recently became a legal requirement in the USA for food businesses with 20 or more outlets. Although it is not a legal requirement in the UK, there is evidence to suggest that calorie labelling can make a real difference to the amount of calories consumed by customers.
At a recent ceremony, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael was delighted to present the awards to the Catering Managers from each of the northern hospital sites on behalf of the four Councils; “Calorie Wise asks businesses to make a voluntary commitment, where they must adhere to the four principles which are outlined in the technical guidance. A lot of hard work has been going on behind the scenes to get to where we are today and I would like to thank the Environmental Health teams from the councils who have been instrumental in the delivery of this project and carried out extensive audits across each of the hospital sites, providing a level of robustness to the scheme. As well as ensuring the displayed information is accurate and presented in a consistent manner, Environmental Health Officers were able to provide the facilities with much support and guidance and will continue this support as the scheme progresses.”
Speaking at the ceremony which recognised the commitment of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to enabling healthier choices, Dr Mc Bride, Chief Medical Officer, said, “Obesity continues to be one of the most important public health challenges facing Northern Ireland. The NI Obesity Prevention Strategy ‘A Fitter Future for All’ calls for action to reduce the ‘obesogenic’ environment we live in, and the Northern Trust’s recent Calorie Wise accolade demonstrates effective action taken by The Trust, the FSA, four councils and six hospital sites to encourage healthier decisions.”
Following receipt of the Calorie Wise award, NHSCT CEO Dr Stevens recognised staff efforts in achieving the accreditation. “We are delighted to have received the Calorie Wise award,” said Dr Stevens. “To have achieved this high standard across six hospital locations proves our dedication to ensuring our staff and customers are equipped to make healthy and thoughtful food choices, and this could not have been achieved without the enthusiastic cooperation between catering managers across the Trust as well as the local councils who guided us through the process from start to finish. We are already seeing positive shifts in the eating and purchasing habits of our customers and this important milestone supports Northern Ireland’s Obesity Strategy, where food provision within health and social care settings was highlighted as an important area for development.”
Commending the Trust for their successful compliance at all six locations Maria Jennings, Director of Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland, said, “We are very impressed by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust’s commitment to educating and encouraging healthy eating habits amongst its diners and look forward to rolling out Calorie Wise to additional Trusts and other catering facilities, restaurants, and cafes across Northern Ireland.”
Recent research carried out in Northern Ireland has found that the current awareness of recommended daily calorie intake for adults is incredibly low, with fewer than half the population aware of what calories they should be consuming. Furthermore, the most recent NI Health Survey 2017/18 showed around 60% of adults and approximately 28% of children aged between 2 and 15 years of age are classified as overweight or obese.
Any restaurant, quick service restaurant, takeaway, café or pub is welcome to take part in Calorie Wise. Interested eateries and caterers can contact the FSA to receive advice and support on calculating and displaying calories as well as guidance on how to provide healthier options for customers by making small and simple menu changes.