Coffee shops and cafés in Northern Ireland should consider applying calorie labelling to scones, according to the Food Standards Agency.

This is one of the recommendations made in a report by the FSA in partnership with local councils, called Nutritional Content of Scones.

Researchers said scones were selected as the target of the study for a number of reasons, including them being a popular mid-morning snack in Northern Ireland, and because bakery is one of the top 10 sources of sugar for 11- to 18-year-olds in the country.

The study looked at levels of energy, sugar, fat, fibre, salt and the portion size of locally-produced scones in the country as part of the ‘Know Your Calories’ campaign. Multinational chains such as Starbucks, Costa and Greggs were excluded from the study.

The range of calories per scone varied from 154kcal to 756kcal, the research found, while the average scone contained 20g of sugar. One plain scone contained 5g of salt per portion while another – a raspberry & white chocolate one – had 22.7g of fat. The largest, a fruit scone that weighed in at 233.3g, contained around 750kcal and 39.2g of sugar.

“In 2018, the 11 district councils sampled a variety of plain, luxury and fruit scones from local coffee shops and cafés across Northern Ireland,” said Emily Latimer, principal environmental health officer, representing the 11 district councils.

The results of the survey will inform ‘targeted interventions’ to increase the availability of healthier products in local bakeries and coffee shops.

Recommendations included adding calorie labels to scones and reducing their portion size by using a smaller cutter, or offering a variety of sizes so consumers have a choice.

“Coffee shops should consider applying calorie labelling to the scones they produce to allow their customers to make a more informed choice. Recent statistics show that 78% of NI consumers would like to see more information about healthy eating options when they are eating out,” the report stated.

Notably, 91% of the scones tested were made from scratch, 5% made with a commercial mix and 4% bought in ready-baked. Of the businesses making their scones from scratch, 18% reported that they did not measure ingredients.

“The majority of scones in this survey were made from scratch, presenting a real opportunity for coffee shops to make a difference to the healthiness of the scones they produce through reformulation and portion control.”