Plans to see how calorie labelling can be introduced in restaurants, cafes and takeaways have been opened up for public consultation.
Views on how calorie labelling can apply to online firms that sell takeaway or home delivery dishes will also be sought as part of the 12-week consultation, starting on Friday.
Calorie labelling, which is often found on packaged foods in supermarkets, may help give families an informed choice and has been hailed by diabetes experts as obesity is a key risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, according to public health minister Steve Brine.
He said: “Families want to know what they are eating when on the go, but in many cafes, restaurants and takeaways this information is not available.
“This is not about forcing anyone to eat certain things, or companies to behave in a certain way, but I firmly believe we have a right to know the nutritional content of the food we give to our children.
“Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and is often both preventable and reversible.
“That’s why we are taking action through this consultation, and I would ask everyone to respond with their ideas on how we can make this work.”
The proposals, which are part of the Government’s strategy to halve childhood obesity by 2030, are aimed at ensuring that calorie labelling is consistently available in restaurants so the public has enough information to make healthy choices wherever they may choose to eat.
It is also seen as a helpful tool to help cut the amount of calories that are bought and eaten which is particularly important as many people underestimate the amount of calories in their food.
Views on how small businesses, street vendors and restaurants with fast changing menus should be tackling the proposal are also being sought in the consultation.
The Department of Health & Social Care points out that food and drink bought in supermarkets is already labelled with nutritional information, and that some restaurants and cafes already take a similar approach but this is on a voluntary basis.
Public Health England’s chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “Eating out has become the norm, meaning around a quarter of our calories come from food on the go, restaurants and takeaways.
“Clear and visible information at the point of choice is important to help us understand what we are buying and to make healthier choices – this will help protect children from obesity and future ill health.”
Obesity is a key risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes and one in three children are overweight or obese, according to Diabetes UK.
Type 2 is preventable and reversible, yet the number of children and young people being treated for Type 2 diabetes has increased by nearly half in four years, according to the Health Department, which added that without intervention, more than five million people in the UK will have the condition by 2025.
National Obesity Forum chairman Tam Fry welcomed the introduction of calorie labelling but warned it “will be far from perfect” if it is not mandatory.
He said: “Huge numbers of so-called out-of-home outlets are likely to be let off complying with the decision and the general public will still be none the wiser about food calorie content.
“Why we have to go through three months of consultation is bewildering.
“It will tell the Public Health England nothing that it shouldn’t know already.
“Successive governments have been told by specialists for the last 10 years that this action is urgently needed and the days for consultation are long gone.
“The urgency to stem obesity and Type 2 diabetes is such that introducing labelling should be implemented right away.”