Health groups are on red alert as they await the publication of a key government report that proposes a dramatic increase in our recommended daily calorie intake.

The initial findings of the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) on Energy Requirements which revealed that calorie advice had been incorrect for 18 years were first disclosed a year ago.

But with the final report out early next year, leading health organisations have warned government it needs to be "very careful" about what it does with the findings, which could encourage people to eat more, despite the obesity crisis.

The recommended calorie counts 2,500 for a man and 2,000 for a woman have been used as the basis for dietary advice and labelling since 1991, though labels are now set using EFSA guidelines.

But the SACN's initial draft recommended estimated average requirements should rise by as much as 16%. This would take the recommended daily calorie count for adult men to 2,900 and to 2,320 for women.

The Grocer's story sparked a flurry of sensational press headlines suggesting 'calorie count guidance may rise by a cheeseburger'. Health groups fear the final report will send out the message it is fine to simply eat more.

As part of the consultation process, a number of leading health experts and organisations have expressed this concern, even though they did not disagree with the science behind the report.

"The media coverage of the draft report has already exposed the need for a more careful distinction to be drawn and for the ramifications for public health guidance to be explicitly set out," wrote the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge.

The British Nutrition Foundation said it "considered appropriate and careful communication of the findings of this report to be critical, to avoid misuse".

SACN has passed on these concerns to DH. Once the report is published it will be up to the coalition to decide whether to change its guidance.

Read more
Revealed: how the FSA spun our calorie count cock-up story (21 November 2009)
Calorie count guide wrong for 18 years (14 November 2009)