RESTAURANTS, takeaways, cinemas and delis must display the calorie content of all the food they sell to help consumers cut their intake to a healthier level, a watchdog has said.

A report by Food Standards Scotland found widespread support for mandatory calorie labelling for all food provided out-of-home.

It would also include a requirement for home delivery services to provide calorie information on online menus.

Ross Finnie, chair of Food Standards Scotland, said: “Almost everybody - 98 per cent of us - in Scotland eats out, and around 25% of all our calories now comes from the food we eat out of home.

“In the absence of calorie information, our most popular choices are those which are less healthy items of confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, chips, crisps and sugary drinks.

“With two out of three people either overweight or obese in Scotland and a sharp increase in the volume of takeaways being ordered, action is needed to transform the current food environment for our health.”

ANALYSIS: Consumers 'horrified and surprised' at calories-packed foods 

The report said eating out has gone from something that was an occasional treat in the past to a regular occurrence in modern Scotland.

However, it found that many of the adults who took part in the FSS consultation were “surprised and shocked” by the amount of calories in some popular snacks and meals, including 1260 in a KFC meal deal and 954 in a chicken salad from Pizza Express.

The report said: “Most agree, on some level, that the information provided about calories was a serious eye opener and very worrying.

“In addition, many respondents spontaneously stated that seeing such information on menus and the [out-of-home] food they are eating would be a wake-up call and make them stop and think".

The report found that nearly four in five people (79%) were in favour of changing recipes to reduce excessive calorie content in food, while 73% supported cutting calories by reducing portion sizes.

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However, banning items above a set calorie threshold was seen as "too dictatorial" and there was "strong resistance" to increasing the cost of unhealthy foods, for example through taxation, because consumers felt it would impact disproportionately on those with the tightest budgets.

There was also little support for legal restrictions on meal deals or other upsizing promotions that incentivise consumers to buy bigger portions or side dishes.

"It was felt that other initiatives such as calorie information provision should be enough to make consumers question the value of deals", said the report.

However, four in five of those questioned backed measures to improve the health of children's meals, including offering smaller portions of food from the adult menu, and reducing the reliance on chips, fried and breaded products on children's menus.

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Professor Linda Bauld, a cancer prevention expert at Edinburgh University, said: “As the number of restaurants and takeaway businesses continues to grow, it’s important this sector develops in a way that helps diners make informed choices about what they’re eating. The proposals made here would go a long way to helping do this."