Northern Health and Social Care Trust leads the way in making sense of calories
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has been recognised by the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA in NI) and Environmental Health Northern Ireland (EHNI) for achieving Calorie Wise status across its six hospital sites. As the first Trust in Northern Ireland to receive the Calorie Wise award for its catering facilities at Antrim Area, Whiteabbey, Holywell, Mid Ulster, Braid Valley and Causeway hospitals, the voluntary commitment to displaying calorie information will help to tackle the obesity epidemic in Northern Ireland and serves as proof of the Trust’s ongoing dedication to the health and well-being of its staff, visitors and patients.
Delivered by the FSA in partnership with the eleven district councils across Northern Ireland, Calorie Wise is a free and voluntary scheme which encourages food businesses to display calorie information clearly and prominently on their menus, enabling customers to make informed food choices when eating out and on the go.
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.
Speaking at a recent award ceremony which recognised the commitment of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to enabling healthier choices, Dr McBride, 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.”
“Calorie Wise asks businesses to make voluntary commitments to display calorie information clearly and prominently at the point of choice,” said Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael when describing the mechanics of the scheme.
“Businesses must adhere to the four principles which are outlined in the technical guidance. In this situation, as the six hospital sites span a large geographical area, the sites were audited by Environmental Health Officers from the four different councils operating in the Northern Trust area. The involvement of Council Environmental Health Officers provides a level of robustness to the scheme and ensures that the information is accurate and presented in a consistent manner. Compliant establishments are then provided with Calorie Wise window stickers so people can look out for the scheme when eating out across Northern Ireland.”
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.
For more information and to participate please visit https://www.food.gov.uk/northern-ireland/nutritionni/caloriewise