People are being asked for their views on how calories in food should be displayed on restaurant menus.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is holding a national consultation on the plan, which is aimed at tackling obesity and associated health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Ireland currently has the second highest rate of obesity in Europe, according to the FSAI.

Two out of every three men and over half of all women are overweight or obese.

The initiative to mark calorie information on menus was announced by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly last year.

It is aimed at encouraging people to eat smaller portions and make healthier food choices.

The practice is already in place in large food outlets in Australia and the US.

The authority says that research carried out in the US found that when the calorie information was marked beside the food on menus, people ate 152 fewer calories in hamburger restaurants, 73 fewer calories in sandwich bars and 6% fewer calories overall.

The consultation will run until 29 February.

Launching the consultation, Minister Reilly said we need to own our own health and make informed decisions.

He said calorie information on menus was one step along this road.

Mr Reilly has said he would be willing to use legislation if necessary to force food outlets to display the calories contained in food on menus.

The FSAI is encouraging restaurants, cafes and members of the food service industry to get involved in the consultation process.