Food should be labelled with ‘activity equivalent’ calorie information

You must run four miles after consuming this doughnut.

The media release is below.


Food should be labelled with ‘activity equivalent’ calorie information

Food should be labelled with the equivalent exercise to expend its calories to help people change their behaviour, argues an expert in The BMJ today.

Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive at the Royal Society of Public Health, says giving consumers an immediate link between foods’ energy content and physical activity might help to reduce obesity.

She explains that with more than two-thirds of the UK population either overweight or obese, “we desperately need innovative initiatives to change behaviour at population level.” Yet little evidence indicates that the current information on food and drink packaging, including traffic light labelling, actually changes behaviour.

The Royal Society for Public Health has therefore called for the introduction of “activity equivalent” calorie labelling.

Symbols could show the minutes of several different physical activities that would be equivalent in calories expended to the calories in the product, explains Cramer.

“The objective is to prompt people to be more mindful of the energy they consume and how these calories relate to activities in their everyday lives, and to encourage them to be more physically active.”

Public polling by the society has shown that almost half (44%) of people find current front of pack information confusing, she writes. And more than half (53%) said that they would positively change their behaviour as a result of viewing activity equivalent calorie information, including choosing healthier products, eating smaller portions or doing more physical exercise, all of which could help counter obesity.

For example, the calories in a can of fizzy drink takes a person of average age and weight about 26 minutes to walk off. “Given its simplicity, activity equivalent calorie labelling offers a recognisable reference that is accessible to everyone,” she says.

She believes that placing information on food and drink packaging to promote an active lifestyle “could be a logical solution to a multifaceted problem, and the benefits of being active go far beyond maintaining a healthy weight.”

She acknowledges that messages of the importance of healthy and varied eating must also continue – and that some concerns have been raised about possible negative implications for people with eating disorders. But says “we have a responsibility to promote measures to tackle the biggest public health challenges facing our society, such as obesity.”

Finally, she points out that food packaging is governed by European legislation and that “fundamental change to packaging harbours little appetite among EU officials and food manufacturers.”

Nevertheless, she calls for detailed research to explore the potential effects of activity labelling on consumer choices, including potential harms. And if it is shown to be an effective means to influence consumers’ decisions, “we would implore law makers and industry to implement it to reduce obesity in the UK.”


8 thoughts on “Food should be labelled with ‘activity equivalent’ calorie information”

  1. Choey:

    Oyster Calories: 175 Each.
    Sex Calories: 210 calories per hour.

    12 X 175 = 900 / 210 = 4.2 hours.

    I’d suggest some viagra, if that’s your plan!

    PS : The values used for sex are an “average” after a quick google search. If anyone has a study showing different, please feel free to correct me!

  2. I am enjoying how the idea of “activity equivalent” is receiving its proper “all due respect”.

  3. I don’t need the gov to tell me how many calories a donut has and what to do if I should imbibe or gulp down. I need some scientist to figure why my metabolism is not working efficiently. Genetics?

  4. More meaningless information for the public to ignore. I wasn’t going to run 2 miles after a 8 they small sized fries, so what’s the difference between that and not running 10 miles after eating the super-sized fries?

  5. We are told on the one hand that education standards are rising , on the other hand it appears that our population is too thick to read food labels.
    Coming soon … compulsory warning notices on forks telling people not to swallow them with their food, compulsory warning notices on cups telling us not to swallow them with the drink………. perhaps warning notices should be tattooed onto politicians warning us not to swallow their lies…..

  6. I notice there is complete disregard for variations in metabolisms among individuals.

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