Calorie accounting: The introduction of mandatory calorie labelling on menus in the UK food sector

Ingrid Jeacle, Chris Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Obesity has become a topic of public discourse in Britain with claims that it is now one of the major causes of ill health and premature death. In an effort to tackle this obesity ‘crisis’, the UK government has introduced mandatory calorie labelling on menus. This legislation requires that the number of calories associated with a meal option, together with the recommended calorie consumption per day, be displayed on menus. Such ‘calorie accounting’ seeks to prompt the consumer to make menu choices consistent with public health ambitions and to encourage food establishments to reformulate lower calorie menu offerings. Drawing on the concepts of technologies of government (Miller & Rose, 1990; Rose & Miller, 1992) and biopedagogy (Harewood, 2009; Wright, 2009), this paper suggests that calorie accounting operates as a technology of biopedagogy which seeks to discipline and govern the body in contemporary neoliberal society. The paper also contributes to recent accounting scholarship on counter-conduct (Foucault, 2007) by highlighting how calorie accounting produces a form of counter-conduct that coexists with conformity to governmental goals. The paper draws upon three primary data sources: a documentary analysis of 44 policy documents on obesity and calorie reduction, an analysis of 112 responses to a public consultation exercise on calorie labelling, and 20 interviews with relevant actors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101468
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Early online date7 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • biopedagogy
  • calorie accounting
  • counter-conduct
  • governmentality
  • obesity
  • technologies of government


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