Plans by health officials to force operators to display calorie counts on menus have been challenged by the Treasury, according to reports.

In a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph, Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, wrote to David Lidington, the prime minister’s de-facto deputy, warning that the Department of Health, which made the proposals, had underestimated the cost for businesses.

The letter said: “I am concerned these proposals could result in job losses and higher food prices being passed on to consumers,” she wrote. “It could cost businesses, including SMEs, up to £13 million (an average of £500 each for 26,000 businesses per year), and individual costs may be particularly burdensome to micro and small businesses which frequently change their menus to offer seasonal local foods. I am also concerned that the accompanying impact assessment may underestimate the cost to businesses of ongoing compliance with complex and specific new regulations.”

She added: “At this stage I am not agreeing to any preferred option or final policy change for small or micro businesses.”