Image caption McDonald’s is to accelerate the rollout of its new Shake Shack-style burgers in its restaurants
Some of the world’s largest fast food chains have agreed to limit the calories available on their menus from April next year.
McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell all pledged to cut the amount of “calorie icons” they feature on their menus.
This comes after health campaigners drew attention to the fact they contain 8.5% of the UK’s total calories from food.
The move comes after a World Health Organisation (WHO) proposal to slash calorie consumption was rejected.
It was one of 39 UN member states to vote against the proposal, with 19 supporting it.
The organisations’ decision came after a 2016 agreement was reached to reduce calorie consumption by 20% of global population by 2025 and by 30% by 2030.
‘Lack of uniformity’
Analysis by the BBC’s nutrition editor Emma Kennedy
This announcement by some of the world’s biggest restaurant chains does not solve the bigger global problem of increased levels of obesity.
The WHO has said this will be the most important topic in its World Health Assembly meeting this summer.
However, the developed world has tried some restrictions over the past couple of years.
France’s recent law restricts the sale of junk food in schools, and had the support of many schools themselves.
It does not apply to vending machines in schools, which may yet be banned.
The UK has also experimented with limiting the number of energy and sweet drinks sold in supermarkets.
In the UK, our national nutrition register offers calorie information to customers.
In some countries, such as Canada, the recommendations are much more general.
The lack of uniformity has been criticised by some nutrition experts, especially in the wake of the WHO’s revised guidelines.
McDonald’s says that many people have a limited understanding of healthy food and that it will provide products in smaller portions, to help customers to make healthier choices.
It says: “The decision by McDonald’s and its franchisees to reduce calories on their menus in April 2019 is an important step, but it is just one part of the solution.”
In France, McDonald’s and Burger King have both agreed to reduce calories on their menus.
However, several other major fast food chains, including Subway, KFC and Wetherspoon’s have said they are “unsure” whether they will reduce their calorie numbers.
‘Groceries to drive future’
The WHO has said it will continue to encourage the “increase of healthy, affordable food options at all income levels” in its future recommendations.
However, a spokeswoman said that while it supported the retail industry’s cooperation with public health, it was not an endorsement of its actions or policy position.
“This will not compromise efforts to reduce the prevalence of unhealthy foods and beverages in supermarkets and other non-food retail outlets,” she said.
Dr Steven Cook, from the US, and Rosie Adams, from the UK, wrote in the Lancet Public Health journal: “A small number of reduction successes in restaurants were possible before now.
“Now this focus [on restaurants] is being formalised and the pace of change will accelerate.
“Food manufacturers are entering into the area on their own and ensuring that their products are compliant.
“Their purchases and on-the-ground procedures will drive the future of the grocery industry.”
Analysis by Emma Kennedy