According to sister title Caterer Middle East, a directive in May meant that from November 2019, all restaurants, cafes and cafeterias with more than five branches would have to publish their dishes calorie counts on their menus, while all other food establishments would have to be in accordance with it by January 2020.
However, the new memo circulated to Dubai food establishments states that the calorie declaration will now be voluntary for the next two years before a further decision is made.
The original decision was made as part of the municipality’s efforts to raise awareness about the nutritional values of meals, in line with the National Nutrition Agenda 2017 – 2021. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 30% of the Middle East's population is obese.
But some Dubai-based chefs had been critical of the decision, with food consultant Tomas Reger telling Caterer Middle East that “adding calorie information on the menus in restaurants will not have a long term impact on the general public.” He added that it would "become just white noise on the menus and people will not even register it", preferring sugar content of dishes to be published.
While Josh Benson, founder and managing partner of Bystro, felt the original decision didn’t go far enough. He said: “The overall problem of obesity in the region as whole is far more engrained in people habits than solely linked to calories.”