By Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK

The UK is the sixth most overweight nation on Earth, and the most overweight nation in Western Europe. This has serious consequences for our health, as obesity is linked to a range of serious health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Living a healthy lifestyle and managing your weight isn’t easy, and unavailable or inconsistent nutritional information on the food we eat makes it so much more difficult. In one survey of 2,121 UK adults, 9 in 10 said that clear food labelling helps them make healthier eating decisions, and just 29% of people surveyed said they felt they had enough information about what’s in their food.

Public support

At Diabetes UK, along with our partners in the OHA, we’ve been campaigning for clearer, more consistent food labelling to empower people to make healthy food choices. We’re pleased to see that government has listened, launching a consultation on introducing mandatory calorie labelling for the out of home sector (IE eating out or ordering take away). This is a popular proposal – our survey showed 79% of UK adults agree that menus should include the number of calories in food and drinks.

As a nation we’re eating out more. In 2014, 75% of people said they’d eaten out or ordered takeaway in the last week, up from 69% in 2010. We’re glad the government has recognised this trend and is consulting on legislation to ensure that this sector gives its customers the information they need. We need to bring the out of home sector into line with the sort of labelling we see on grocery products.

Link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes

We know that if you’re overweight, you’re more at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and we know that the rising number of people living with diabetes is driven by cases of Type 2. These health crises (obesity and diabetes) are linked. Both are complex issues, without a simple solution, but consistent calorie labelling would be one important step towards encouraging all of us to live more healthily.

As part of our “Future of Diabetes” survey, we asked thousands of people affected by diabetes what their hopes and fears for the future were. They overwhelmingly told us that they wanted clearer, more consistent information about the food they eat, both out and about, and at home.

Making the healthy choice the easy choice

If you’re living with Type 2 diabetes, having a balanced diet is an important way to protect your health. Clear, consistent food labelling would give people living with diabetes more control, and empower them to make the best possible eating decisions for their health. We need to make the healthy choice the easy choice, and government can play a huge role in making this happen.

Calorie labelling isn’t about making people feel guilty about what they’re eating. It’s about creating an environment in which people are well informed about their food options, and can make the healthiest decision for them.

We hope this consultation leads to legislation which creates a healthier environment not just for those living with diabetes, but for everyone.