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You’ll soon know how many calories your favourite eatery packs into each dish

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Aiming to combat rising obesity and disease, state FDA is set to make it mandatory for restaurants to print this information

With obesity and its subsequent effects becoming alarmingly frequent among both adults and children in Maharashtra, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided it’s time to make people count the calories they’re consuming, especially when eating out.

A sedentary lifestyle and easy access to high-calorie food has led to a rise in people prone to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis and even certain types of cancers. To combat this, in a series of meetings held internally, the FDA decided that restaurants must start mentioning the calorie count of each item mentioned on the menu. The brainchild of FDA commissioner Pallavi Darade, the plan will be sent to the state government for final approval, after suggestions from all stakeholders are taken into consideration.

In the days to come, FDA officials will be holding meetings with representatives from the food and packaging industry, scientists, restaurateurs, nutritionists, dieticians and obstetricians before making the final proposal, which is expected to be sent to the state government in a couple of months.

FDA officials are also conducting their own research and market analysis for the project.

Elaborating on the plan, Darade said, “People are certainly getting more conscious of their health, but they are still not aware about the calories they are consuming while ordering a meal in a restaurant. The public should be able to make an informed decision while placing an order. Also, this way, the hotel industry will also be more aware about the calorie content in their dishes. The calorie content may not be exact, but patrons will still know their calorie intake.”

“It’s been shocking to see the rise in obesity among children. This plan may not be the only solution, but it’s a start. Hoteliers and restaurateurs should voluntarily come forward and start stating the calories in their food,” added Darade.

Lending enthusiastic support to the plan, Dr Sanjay Borude, a well-known bariatric surgeon practising at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, said, “There is a major rise in the number of people suffering from obesity, which includes young children. This is a cause for genuine concern and this decision taken by the FDA will enhance public awareness. It’s a pity that people, while being aware of the calories in food such as wada pav and burgers. Still opt for such items simply because they are easily available and taste good.”

“A similar idea had been floated in western countries for food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC, but it didn’t really take off. I cannot stress this enough — calorie consciousness is low among common people, even parents. Hoteliers should take this as a positive step and support the FDA. In fact, I had suggested some time ago that some food chains should carry a statutory warning on junk food, warning consumers about the number of calories,” added Borude.

However, taking a more cautious approach, Ganesh Shetty, president of the Pune Hotel and Restaurant Association, pointed out, “The decision taken by the FDA is commendable, but its feasibility is dubious. Restaurants and hotels don’t have the machinery to count the calorie content in their dishes. It’s not like packaged food which comes with calorie count written. At a restaurant, content such as salt, oil, spices or butter can differ even if the same dish is made by the same person.”

“A lot of Indian food is boiled and has less oil and spice anyway. Restaurateurs have started taking care that the food served has less calories. This move could have an adverse effect, create unnecessary pressure on hoteliers and may lead to corruption,” added Shetty.

The public should be able to make an informed decision while placing an order. Also, this way, the hotel industry will be more aware about the calorie content in their dishes

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