The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) today stated that it would oppose any attempt down the line to introduce mandatory labelling of calories on menus in hotels and guesthouses. Commenting on a series of recommendations by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Michael Vaughan, President, IHF, welcomed the voluntary nature of the proposed scheme but expressed concerns that it could be transformed into a mandatory system once the introductory phase has been completed.

Mr Vaughan warned that the adoption of an indiscriminate, ‘one size fits all’ approach to mandatory calorie labelling would be entirely inappropriate for hotels and guesthouses, many of whose menus change on a daily basis reflecting the use of locally sourced produce and the seasonally available ingredients.

“Our members are very concerned that today’s announcement could be the first step toward a mandatory system across the board without taking account of the challenges faced by hotels and guesthouses,” says Mr Vaughan. “Such a system would be unworkable for many of our members given the prohibitive costs involved in determining calorie content for menus that are constantly changing from day to day.”

“Hotels and guesthouses seek to source local, seasonal produce and our menus change frequently to reflect this. Any given premises could have hundreds of ingredients making up their menu and there simply wouldn’t be the resources to calculate, in a scientific way, the exact calorific value of dishes each day. At a time when many hoteliers are struggling to survive, this would result in an additional burden in terms of resources that simply wouldn’t be practical to implement.”

In terms of feasibility, Mr Vaughan states that the proposed scheme would be more appropriate for premises where menus do not change on a regular basis, such as fast-food outlets, cafes and bars. He states that further clarification would be required from the FSAI on the exact type of expert tools and level of technical support that would be made available to those hotels and guesthouses seeking to participate in the scheme, either in part or in full.

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