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Asian restaurant chain embraces new calorie content legislation despite worries from one industry leader

A leader in the Asian catering industry is worried about the impact the new Government calorie content legislation will have on curry houses but one restaurant in Bradford is embracing the change.

New legislation has come into force today that will mean larger restaurants, takeaways, and chain eateries will have to include information on calories for each item on their menu.

Approved in parliament last year, all diners with over 250 employees will now have to label each food item on a menu with information on its calorie content. This also includes online menus and food delivery websites.

The legislation, which forms part of the government’s strategy to tackle obesity “aims to ensure people can make more informed, healthier choices when it comes to eating food out or ordering takeaways.”

However, industry leaders have voiced their concerns about the impact it will have on the catering sector, especially on curry houses and South Asian Restaurants.

British Curry Awards founder Enam Ali MBE.

Enam Ali MBE, a “superstar restaurateur” who owns the Le Raj in Epsom and founder of the largest Asian hospitality awards ceremony in the UK, the British Curry Awards, says that the decision to introduce the new legislation is “not the right time” as many restaurants are facing the heat due to the pandemic.

Mr Ali said: “The decision is a good idea, but it is not the right time. Businesses are suffering terribly because the cost of ingredients has doubled.

“Restaurants are now fighting for survival, especially as we are in the cost-of-living crisis and footfall in restaurants is declining.”

One restaurant that is embracing the new legislation as a way of being at the forefront of change in the industry is My Lahore, which has restaurants in Bradford, Leeds, London, Birmingham, and Manchester and employs over 500 people across its six locations.

From tomorrow, the restaurant is launching information on the calorie contents of each dish on its 300-item menu, which has cost the company upwards of £30,000 to introduce.

Director of MyLahore Groups, Ishfaq Farooq said: “We have been working towards putting the calorie content of each item on our menu long before the Government passed the legislation. We were one of the first ones in the Asian food industry to include allergens on our menu before it became mandatory.

Ishfaq Farooq, Director at the MyLahore Group.

“Introducing calorie information is a lengthy process, especially with having nearly 300 items on the menu, so we have been working on it for around two years and talking about it for longer.”

He added: “Times are changing, and everyone is health conscious these days. People want to know what they are eating and how many calories are in their meals so they can make an informed decision.

“I think adding calories to our menus will change the way people will eat. I think some people will be shocked about how many calories some items contain, but it will be a good thing so that people know how many calories they are eating, especially if they are being conscious about what they eat.”

One of Bradford’s most popular restaurants, Akbar’s, will not be introducing the calorie content of their food items, because despite employing well over 250 employees across its multiple locations, each business is its own entity, meaning that it isn’t required to by law.

Owner and director of Akbar’s, Shabir Hussain, said: “I think 10% of people who are on a diet will change what they eat when they go out or order in, but not the majority, not the other 90%. No chance.”

Expert dietician, Fareeha Jay says the calorie content varies depending on the curry and the meat or vegetables used. She said: “Roughly the calories for a portion of a meat curry would range from 290 to 400 calories in a restaurant but it is dependent on the size of the portion. Lamb curries can go up to 500 calories.

Expert dietician Fareeha Jay recommends eating a side of vegetables with every main dish to boost nutrition.

“If the curries are not tomato-based and made with cream, butter or ghee then the calories may even double.”

Ms Jay recommends curries such as a bhuna, tikka, or tandoori as a lower calorie option and curries with leaner meats such as chicken or turkey.

For vegetarians and those who can go without meat, vegetable curries or daal are great for a reduced-calorie option.

To increase the health benefits when eating out or ordering in, Ms Jay recommends always ordering a portion of vegetables alongside your main, it can be a vegetable curry or a salad, or swap naan for roti, and pilau rice with boiled rice.

She also suggests swapping starts of samosas and bhajis with salad and raita and going for tomato-based dishes rather than cream or butter-based curries.

Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said: “It is crucial that we all have access to the information we need to maintain a healthier weight, and this starts with knowing how calorific our food is. We are used to knowing this when we are shopping in the supermarket, but this isn’t the case when we eat out or get a takeaway.

“As part of our efforts to tackle disparities and level up the nation’s health, these measures are an important building block to making it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices.”


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