New Food Labels Would Tell You How Long It Takes to Burn Off Calories

Images by Royal Society of Public Health
Images by Royal Society of Public Health

Food labels are notoriously confusing—but what if they simply told you how long it might take to burn off the calories you’re about to consume?

That’s the suggestion of the UK’s Royal Society of Public Health, at least, which is suggesting that food packaging could feature labels that show how many minutes of walking, running, cycling or swimming are required to use up the calories they contain. You can see some examples of how it might look in the images above. They call it “activity equivalent” calorie labelling.

“This is not meant to scare people, or to create a society of obsessives,” writes Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, for the BBC. “But instead it is meant to show to the public very clearly just how active we need to be if we are to consume the diets we do and not put on weight. Or how we might need to readjust our diets to match our inactive lives.”


It’s not a bad idea—especially given last week’s news that more people worldwide are now obese than are underweight. But there is a small problem: The rate at which we burn calories can vary rather a lot from person-to-person, based on weight and other physiological factors. These labels, then, would simply show an average.

It is for now just a suggestion. But as Cramer points out, it doesn’t have to require legislation to become prevalent—just for food manufacturers to dare tell us how long we need to jog for to counteract the candy.


Contributing Editor at Gizmodo. An ex-engineer writing about science and technology.

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The problem with this is obvious: everyone burns calories at different rates at different times in their lives. A 50 year old doesn’t burn as many calories doing the same activity as a 16 year old. A 16 year old overweight person burns more calories than a 16 year old thin person. So many factors this can’t represent.