Food Freedom

Chefs in Ireland Are Fighting a Mandatory Menu Calorie Count Law

“I’ll pay whatever fine I have to, but I will never put calories on my menu,” says chef Wade Murphy.

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Some of Ireland's leading chefs are protesting a proposed mandatory restaurant calorie labeling law, with several of the country's top chefs saying they'll defy the law should it take effect.

Ireland's health ministry has toyed with the idea of menu calorie labeling for some time. But reports last week indicated the government would press on with legislation after reviewing public comments on its proposal (which the government also did in 2015).

"I'll pay whatever fine I have to, but I will never put calories on my menu," chef Wade Murphy—whose award-winning restaurant 1826 Adare serves sumptuous and authentically Irish dishes such as Cured and Marinated Organic Irish Salmon and Wild Irish Venisontold the Irish Times last week. "Never."

The Times reports other "chefs and restaurateurs across the country" are outraged. "We won't be doing it, as stated many times before, we will NEVER put calories on the menus," famed Dublin chef Eamon O'Reilly, holder of two Michelin stars, said in a tweet that also dubbed the plan "nonsensical, ridiculous & totally impractical."

The lead lobbyist for pub owners in Ireland, Donall O'Keefe, warns the proposal is an "administrative nightmare…. [that] will add to costs."

The leading Irish restaurant lobby, the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), has opposed plans for mandatory calorie labeling on restaurant menus for years. The RAI says testing menu items and revising menus will cost the average restaurant around $10,000.

Adrian Cummins, head of RAI, says the group's members are "totally opposed" to the plan. He details the reasons behind RAI's position here. They include dramatic compliance costs, a shortage of Irish chefs, and the fact calories counts alone, without context, "are not a good measure of healthy menus."

Cummins calls the calorie mandate "nanny-statism at its best" and says his members will leave the country if forced to comply with the law.

Leading Dublin chef Gaz Smith, also an award winner, penned a spectacular op-ed last week in the Irish Daily Mail blasting the proposal.

"This seems like another Nanny State box-ticking exercise by the government with no real thought on genuine implementation, the realities of the costs and time of getting it accurate, and the burden it will place on smaller independent restaurants and cafes that are already swamped in regulations, legislation, VAT increases, and the ever-soaring insurance costs," Smith writes.

As the Irish Times notes, Smith has had a little fun with the proposed mandate by placing a warning on his menus that each dish he crafts contains somewhere between one and 1,000,000 calories.

While that latter figure is a joke, the Irish are indeed among the world's top consumers of calories. Many are obese. The government's plan is intended to combat that problem.

But research consistently shows menu calorie labeling is not an effective tool for combating obesity. If menu labeling rules are "grounded in science," I wrote in 2017, "that science is shoddy." As I detailed in a 2014 column, "research show[s] mandatory menu-labeling doesn't work—and may even be counterproductive."

Last week's Irish Times report suggests the calorie-labeling scheme is supported by research, citing a study that purportedly found "people order less and consume fewer calories when information on calorie content is included on menus." That study, by researchers from Dublin's Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI), concluded what some others have found: Consumers who noticed calories printed after a menu item "ordered and ate fewer calories."

But ESRI isn't a neutral observer. Reports last year indicated ESRI had been "drafted in to help with the legislation" on calorie counts. What's more, while the study details I reviewed don't include data about what percentage of people who took part in the study actually noticed the calorie counts, the study's results appear to track closely with thoroughly unconvincing earlier research I debunked in a 2016 column: "Contradictory studies that have touted menu labeling tend to be filled with qualifiers, along the lines of a small percentage of the small percentage of consumers who self-reported that they noticed calorie information on restaurant menus reduced their calorie intake by a small amount." (To be fair, the Irish study was based on actual research observations rather than consumer self-reporting.)

Last year Simon Harris, Ireland's health minister, said the government would soon push for calorie labeling. "I would hope that businesses across the country will, by their own initiative, lead on this issue," Harris said at the time. Irish businesses are doing just that—though probably not in the way Harris intended. Good for them.

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  1. No comment

    1. I wonder, how many degrees of separation between these guys and Lovecon89, SIV, Buttplug, and the other members of the peanut gallery from Georgia?

      1. It’s all about the Base.

  2. The UK is the mother of all nanny states, and one of the great things about being independent of them is that you’re no longer subject to their nanny state rules. It’d be a shame to turn around and start emulating them of your own free will.

    1. Ireland isn’t a part of the UK But you know that.

      Unless we’re talking about Northern Ireland.

      But they’re indeed the nanniest nags of them all.

      /wink

      1. If you ever read The Children of Men, one of the most British examples of an especially British literary tradition, the dystopian novel, this one written by a career UK bureaucrat, mind you, one of the major themes is the idea that if we unwashed deplorables knew what those in the bureaucracy knew, we’d do the same thing the bureaucracy is doing–so go home and eat your vegetables. (The major theme is “What about the children”).

        Giving the finger to the nanny state is like the most anti-British thing you can do. It isn’t just wrapped up in their false delusions about cultural superiority. It speaks to their national character. That’s the genius of British cultural imperialism. They persuade their subjects that the British are culturally superior to them in all sorts of ways, and the way that seems to stick the most is the way the British are prone to nannying their own people.

        in the name of all that’s good and Irish, tell would be Irish nannystaters to go fuck themselves.

        1. The Vogons long to have a bureaucracy as contradictory and byzantine as the U.K.

  3. Thank you for giving this information. Very useful for me

  4. I am about 20 pounds overweight, and I attribute this to the fact that no one’s ever told me that potato chips and pizza are full of calories. Another victim of corporate greed!

  5. “That dish is 320 calories per serving. So is this one. Actually, everything we serve is 320 calories per serving.”

    1. They are all 320. We just don’t say how many servings per dish.

  6. Just say that every dish is 5,000 calories.

  7. Food impacts people differently. People act like the number on a food label is exact and what will processed and absorbed be each individual the same way. I guess if you’re a collectivist you may think that way.

    The ‘typical’ person whom whenever they see such measures their first instinct is to say, ‘What’s the problem? It’s a good thing!’ while others will add the annoying ‘just comply! Why give yourself a headache?’

    Such people need to get passed this superficial position, which politicians prey upon, and actually take seriously the opinions and concerns of the people who are ACTUALLY impacted by it. This is where the gulf lies I think. Getting people to put themselves in other people’s shoes.

    It’s easy to dismiss this if you’re not a Chef or in the industry. What do you care? It’s just an added number on a menu! More info, the better, right?

    Except, again here we fail to consider unnecessary time and cost to a small business.

    How ingrained are people to reflectively take this stance? Pretty damn deep based on my experience. Even when you point out how problematic and arguably pointless it all is, they give you that irritating glazed look.

  8. If you’re the sort of person who nit picks about calories or just in general, my advice is stay home.

    Cook the way you want.

    I don’t get customers who would think it’s a restaurant’s job to take care of their weight.

    1. When it comes to calories, if you have to ask you probably can’t afford it.

  9. Knowledge is good.
    — Emil Faber, founder

    Accurate calorie counts are too much information, but doctors must mouth falsities to women seeking health care, because superstition.
    — Slack-jawed clingers

    1. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe this smart-alec, illiberal bigot.

      1. Asshole bigot works well.

        1. Notice his MO. He ‘hits and runs’ like the puke he is.

          1. I devote some of my time to winning the culture war, clinger.

            Tired of having your bigoted preferences curb-stomped by better people yet?

            1. “Tired of having your bigoted preferences curb-stomped by better people yet?”

              Yeah, you pathetic piece of shit, you come from a looong line of murderous losers, most of who were murdered rather than curb-stomped by shitstains as despicable as the lot of you.
              You STINK.
              Fuck off so we can’t smell you.

            2. Does that culture war include the decades of bad dietary advice you’re now furiously retreating on and denying responsibility for?

              1. Science welcomes reasoned change and distinguishes theory from childish dogma. That is what makes science superior, one of the reasons the liberal-libertarian alliance prevails over time.

                1. “Science…”

                  You should try learning what the term means some time soon; given our pathetic grasp of reality, give it a year to grasp the basic concepts. Logic is required, so you’re in for a LOT of trouble, you pathetic piece of shit.

                2. When your side deems you expendable and puts you up against the wall, what patriotic song will you be singing as the rifles fire?

                3. You’re illiberal.

                  Let’s keep that straight.

            3. What a hero.

      1. No wrong way to have a body

        Is that so?

    2. We’re no all fat asses, Kirk.

  10. Just a necessary step towards social justice nanny state utopia. Other innovations to come: restaurant patrons will have to provide their weight, BMI, and other health measures as well as their income, savings, and tax status (and their sex, gender, race, ethnic, and cultural data). The Federal Menu Board agent will then tell them what they may eat and how much it will cost, both in dollars and guilt shaming.

  11. More bad economic news.

    Charles Koch is just barely in the top 10 richest people on the planet.

    Drumpf’s high-tariff / low-immigration economy continues to cause very real human suffering.

    #DrumpfRecession

  12. “This seems like another Nanny State box-ticking exercise by the government with no real thought on genuine implementation, the realities of the costs and time of getting it accurate, and the burden it will place on smaller independent restaurants and cafes that are already swamped in regulations, legislation, VAT increases, and the ever-soaring insurance costs,” Smith writes.

    “HOW DARE YOU!! Provide the *carbon footprint* of each dish, as well!”

  13. What *is* the calorie count of my breakfast whiskey and baked potato?

    1. No, it’s the seven-course meal that matters:
      6 beers at 150/beer, plus one potato at 170 or so.

  14. Obviously, standardized calorie counts depend on standardized ingredients and standardized portions and standardized menus – i.e., McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, TGIFridays, the corporate restaurants all of whom put shitloads of chemicals, preservatives, enhancers, fillers, corn syrup, sugar, etc. in their food. Mom and Pop type places that offer daily menus based on whatever ingredients are available at the time, use fresh ingredients, use varying amounts of ingredients and portions are going to have a tough time of it.

    How many calories are there in a slice of meatloaf? Swanson and Stouffers know – they’re food factories producing uniform meatloaf slices. Uniform slices of shitty, unhealthy, cheap-ass meatloaf. How many calories in a slice of my homemade meatloaf? Well, that depends on how lean the ground beef and sausage were and the ratio of beef to pork or whether I used ground deer meat and whether I used bread crumbs or stuffing mix and how much and how big of a slice I cut, doesn’t it? It varies! Now, are you going to my restaurant or the sort of fast casual chain restaurant that serves Stouffers?

    If the Irish government had its way, I would be out of business – a few big corporations are much easier to control than many small ones. And don’t tell me the nanny-staters don’t have that idea always in the back of their minds. Putting Mom and Pop out of business isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

    1. It wouldn’t surprise me if software exists that can translate recipes into calorie counts. If not this could be a business opportunity.

      1. Trying to reason with anti-social malcontents, disaffected clingers, and grievance-consumed right-wingers?

        Why?

        1. “Trying to reason with anti-social malcontents, disaffected clingers, and grievance-consumed right-wingers?”

          The assumption that you are capable of ‘reasoning’ with anyone is laughable.

        2. No, we’re kind of talking around you.

      2. There are, but I don’t know how well they actually work.

        Counting calories for raw ingredients is easy. What’s lost or added during preparation, not so much.

        1. Some people can handle ostensibly difficult calculations and concepts.

          1. But customers can’t. Only government can save us from ourselves.

          2. Which has nothing to do with what I was responding to. But you knew that, gecko.

    2. That these type of regulations favor highly processed food (because it is easier to make uniform and test) is one of the great ironies of life.

  15. authentically Irish dishes such as Cured and Marinated Organic Irish Salmon

    That’s not ‘authentically Irish’. Atlantic salmon would have been really rare before industrial farming of them. And there’s nothing particularly Irish about curing or marinating.

    1. Offal stuffed into entrails…

      1. Oh, no. That’s Scottish.

        1. I can suggest some books for you if you’d like more information on the differences between Ireland and Scotland.

      2. That’s basically the majority of the the world’s local cuisines until the 20th century.

    2. As a Limerick man, I can assure you that pork has been cured there for centuries.

      Salmon has been eaten in Ireland since the beginning of Irish recorded history.

      You may have a point on the marinating though

  16. total nonsense; now carb counts, on the other hand – – – – – – –

  17. I use the calorie information on menus to identify the food that has the most calories for the least cost for cost effective fast food dining.

    For example, the Taco Bell Beefy Fritos Burrito has 440 calories for only $1.00. $5.00 gets you more than your daily requirement for calories.

  18. I’ve seen upteen articles like this over the years and I’ve never once seen someone offer the obvious solution: Restaurants in the jurisdiction band together and refuse to serve anyone and everyone involved with the legislation.

    Not just the person sponsoring it, but the entire legislature. And any high-level staff working for them.

    Imagine: A legislature that isn’t able to have “lunch meetings” or “meet over drinks”. One that isn’t able to have catered meals for events. One that isn’t able to order pizza or Chinese take-out when the staff is working overtime.

    How many of them would support a bill that pissed off the F&B industry?

    1. I like the idea, but how do you know Joan Schmoan is a member of the scumbag staff who did so?

  19. The lead lobbyist for pub owners in Ireland, Donall O’Keefe, warns the proposal is an “administrative nightmare…. [that] will add to costs.”

    Utter nonsense, it’s not that hard to figure out and you only have to do it once for each item.

    1. If it is so easy then customers who want to know the calorie count should make the calculations themselves.

  20. I wonder how many libertarians like being able to read the nutritional information on the food they buy.

    Thank government.

    1. Muh roadz?

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  23. “Many are obese. The government’s plan is intended to combat that problem.”

    Nothing a good, old fashioned famine wouldn’t fix.

  24. Irish “chefs”… now I’ve heard everything.

  25. What is that mess on the plate anyway? Some sort of greenish glowing glop next to a hill that looks like a volcano made out of suet dripping with a brown runny substance that could be anything from the bottom of the pot left over from yesterday. Then some kind of penis shaped thing covered with the same stuff.

    If that is Irish cuisine then calorie counts are the least of their problems.

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