Food labelling project

A pilot study which shows the nutritional value of each item on the menu has launched at Oka’s at the Villa restaurant. The goal is to raise awareness so individuals may make better and more efficient choices, by providing macro-nutrient details for every dish on the menu.

The study, called Feeding Knowledge: The Power to Choose, is planned to be carried out over the next three months and is being led by Bernice Sant, a sports and exercise psychologist, who will be collecting and reviewing collected data on a monthly basis.

On the menu, clients will have access to information on how much fat, saturates, total sugar, salt, fibre and protein each listed item has. It will be coupled with a traffic-light system indicating the quantity of each macro-nutrient mentioned.

Clients will also be encouraged to fill out a questionnaire so the effects of the labelling system can be measured and analysed.

The project is being done in collaboration with Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), the Ministry for the national heritage, arts and local Government, the Ministry for inclusion, voluntary organisations and consumer rights, and Xara Collection, which operates Oka’s At The Villa.

 “It’s not just about the calories, which can scare people,” said Dr Sant, “but it will show other details, to help those who have issues with sugar or blood pressure.”

“The goal is to inform the consumers, and also chefs, who might want to ‘smart switch’ some ingredients, which could be healthier without affecting the taste.”

Dr Sant explained how it would also help improve the credibility of restaurants since it would better inform consumers about the choices they are making. She added that this is not the first time that a project with this objective is being conducted in Malta. The first one was done roughly 10 years ago, however, Dr Sant explained that there was not much awareness of food and healthy eating habits yet.

Adrian Tonna, the Chief Commercial Director of Xara Collection, which operates Oka’s At The Villa, explained that this project is very much in line with the restaurant’s goal of sustainability.

“We immediately accepted the opportunity to be part of this pilot project,” exclaimed Mr Tonna.

The CEO of the MHRA, Andrew Agius Muscat, explained that this pilot project is just the first stage, “clients come to our restaurants not just to eat but to also have an experience with their friends and family, we have a big responsibility to society so we must ensure our product is of a high standard, even in the field of health.”

Following the pilot project, it is expected to be open to the majority of Malta’s restaurants. Mr Muscat hinted at a third stage following mass adoption across Malta’s restaurants. The third stage would address the Mediterranean diet and ensure that a standard is being upheld in Malta’s eateries.

The Minister for inclusion, voluntary organisations and consumer rights, Julia Farrugia Portelli, added that whenever an individual gets a chronic illness, such as diabetes, they tend to self-socially exclude since they can no longer participate in outings due to their condition, without bringing significant risk to themselves.

“I see business potential in this project, in attracting people who due to health reasons decided not to eat out,” remarked Ms Farrugia Portelli, since individuals with underlying health issues would be able to take well-informed and cautious decisions. She added that it would also attract individuals who simply like knowing what they are consuming.

“The World Health Organisation’s recent report said that Malta ranks second in obesity, so this project can help people live out their lifestyles more responsibly,” concluded Ms Farrugia Portelli.

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