Do we really need calorie counts on menus?

March 16th, 2016 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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Brownie’s Bite – Food with Chef Matthew Brownie

There has been a lot of talk recently about making it compulsory to put a calorie count on menus in Irish restaurants and hotels, outlining the calorific breakdown of the various dishes. At the moment it is not compulsory, although a lot of the fast food franchises are already displaying this information. Some other restaurants have also gone down that path, but with a strong possibility that it will be compulsory very shortly, the hospitality sector may soon have to start preparing for what could be a very expensive addition in an already tough business.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has put out information on the principles and how to implement them in recognition of the fact that such a change will not be easy for most food businesses. Technical tools and technical experts will be needed to provide accurate information for customers.

Personally I’ve just had about enough of policies and laws like this to last me a life time. The hospitality industry has been on its knees for the last eight years or so, with pubs and restaurants closing down all over the country. These closures occurred for a variety of reasons, but to bring calorie counts into the fray now will, in my opinion, see even more places shutting down because of the cost of employing a dietitian or nutritionist. Many businesses in this sector are already stretched financially.

Another effect of calorie counts could be a significant reduction in the variety of dishes on menus, as changing them could prove costly – you may find the same old thing on offer all year round. Do we really want to know how many calories are in our meals – especially when we go out on that special occasion? Isn’t that the whole point – to get something special and perhaps even a little indulgent? Most chefs use natural, quality products from start to finish nowadays anyway, which in my opinion is far better than convenience foods that we might otherwise be having at home on a regular basis. And apart from the calories in main courses, what about things like ice cream, which may have stabilizers, sulphites, preservatives, artificial flavours and all sorts of other additives?

The policy makers are missing the point I think, and are listening to much to a small minority that puts them under pressure in one regard while not realising the implications for the industry as a whole.

Ireland has spent years building a well-deserved reputation as a great country for food, and it is just too much to think that this might now be jeopardised by the imposition of further restrictions and conditions on the hospitality sector. The big chain hotels and restaurants may be okay, but what about the small independent café or eaterie that has already taken hit after hit over the last few years? Time to fight back I think.


Recipe – Tasty warm bacon dip


Warm Bacon Dip

Four slices of bacon 

One (eight ounce) package cream cheese, softened 

One cup mayonnaise 

Eight ounces of Swiss cheese, shredded 

Two onions, finely chopped 

Four round crackers, crushed



1. Place bacon in a large pan. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. 

2. Drain, crumble, and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with mayonnaise until smooth. 

4. Stir in Swiss cheese, onions, and bacon.

5. Place bowl in microwave, and cook 2 minutes. Remove, and stir well.

6. Return to microwave, and cook 2 to 4 minutes more. 

7. Sprinkle crushed crackers on top. Serve warm with crackers.


Chef’s tip

This is also great as a sauce to place over a piece of cooked salmon

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