The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) reiterated its call to all 22,000 food service businesses in Ireland to avail of its free online tool, MenuCal to assist in identifying 14 categories of allergens and calculating calories within their dishes. Research from the FSAI found that 95% of consumers would like calorie labelling on menus in all or some food outlets. MenuCal was developed to address the food industry’s concern about the lack of the expertise and resources to accurately calculate calories for display on menus and the associated costs involved. It was further enhanced to help food businesses comply with their legal requirements to display allergen information on food, so that consumers can make more informed choices about the food they purchase.
According to Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI MenuCal was designed by chefs for chefs and 80% of chefs who have used it stated that they found it easy to use and said they would use it again.
Celebrity chef and author, Catherine Fulvio helped launch a new initiative with the FSAI to encourage food businesses across the country to avail of MenuCal. The new initiative will see food businesses, owners and chefs reached through a digital campaign across social media channels, sharing insights and reasons for using the free online resource.
“I’m a big fan of MenuCal and I find it invaluable in the kitchen! It’s so easy and quick to input ingredients and save recipes. It removes the need to keep excel spreadsheets that you need to manually input or amend ingredients. Once the ingredients are in, it’s very easy to modify your recipes. If, for example you have a signature sauce that you use in three dishes, and you want to make a change to the ingredients list for the sauce, that change is automatically made to all the three dishes. It’s also great if the kitchen receives a query about allergens, which we can revert quickly and confidently to the customer with the accurate information,” said Catherine Fulvio.
Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist Public Health Nutrition, FSAI; “A quarter of daily calories are consumed through meals and snacks eaten out. This is a growing trend especially among the young. Calorie menu labelling allows people to make informed choices about the food they buy. The demand for calorie information is here to stay. Three in every 100 people in Ireland have a food allergy and have to be very careful when eating out to avoid becoming ill. Some allergic reactions can be fatal. Accurate allergen information is vital to protect these vulnerable consumers. Identifying allergens in food is challenging, but keeping this information up-to-date is almost impossible without an online system like MenuCal.”
The FSAI brought together a team of nutritionists, computer scientists and food business trainers to create a bespoke, easy-to-use solution for the Irish market that acts as a resource to assist chefs identify calorie values, taking account of types and quantities of ingredients used, method of preparation and portion size and also highlights the 14 categories of allergens, which is a legal requirement. MenuCal contains over 2,000 basic ingredients and also allows you to add your own specific ingredient information to suit your business.
MenuCal is considered a first of its kind in Europe and the software has already been sold to the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland and Food Standards Scotland.
MenuCal is available free of charge on www.menucal.ie