THE plan to introduce calorie counts on menus could be scuppered by difficulties in controlling the practice. Restaurant chiefs have questioned if information on menus will be accurate and are worried that customers could become fixated by a number and refuse to go beyond it.
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) welcomed the addition of calorie counts on menus as a voluntary practice but he questioned how the practice would be regulated.
"How does the Government propose that this will be monitored?
"Will inspectors be paid to eat out in all of Ireland's 22,000 food outlets and check if each menu has calorie counts on them?
"Any chef will tell you that menus in restaurants will vary from day to day and therefore calorie counting will be highly inaccurate anyway."
The move was also greeted with cost warnings from the RAI which said the price of implementing the practice could damage an already weak industry.
It is predicted that for every restaurant to meet the necessary target of having calorie counts on every meal would set restaurants back over €110m or approximately €5,000 for every individual restaurant.
Cummins said: "How does the Minister for Health and his department suggest that we pay for this without having to absorb the cost?
"It's not easy for any business to cough up €5,000 in the morning. The banks aren't lending any money.
"The move will cripple the restaurants industry at a time where revenues are 20pc down on 2011, and one restaurant a day is closing."
The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) also welcomed the introduction of voluntary calories.
But Michael Vaughan, president of the IHF, warned people should not be fooled by a "one size fits all approach" and that the plan could be difficult to introduce for local hotels and hostels due to their changes in menu.
"Hotels and guesthouses seek to source local, seasonal produce and our menus change frequently to reflect this.
"Any given premises could have hundreds of ingredients making up their menu and there simply wouldn't be the resources to calculate the value of dishes each day."
Health Minister James Reilly has indicated that in future, calorie counts will be mandatory on all restaurant menus and that he will push through legislation to ensure that this happens.
Currently it is voluntary for restaurants and large fast food chains to have calorie counts on their menu.
But the minister warned that the practice is "voluntary for now, but if people don't come to the party, I will legislate".