Ontario NDP Health Promotion Critic France Gélinas has put forward a private members bill calling for restaurants (with total gross annual revenues of greater than $5 million) to display the nutritional information (calories) for the foods and drinks served at their restaurants.

The nutritional information is to be displayed on a menu or display board, adjacent to the price and in the same typeface and font size as isused for the price – in other words….no fine print

As well, the bill also calls for a limit on the amount of trans fat that may be contained in such foods and drinks.

History

This bill is based upon existing legislation in New York City, California and numerous other U.S. states and municipalities.

As well, in March of 2010, the U.S. government mandated calorie labelling for all large chain restaurant, vending machine and vending machine operations as part of its health care reform legislation.
And so far, America’s restaurant industry has not gone bankrupt. whew.
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Government Response

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Ontario Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best told reporters on Wednesday that her Liberal government is already looking into introducing similar legislation. “It’s certainly something that we believe there is some merit in,” Ms. Best said.In televised interviews, I personally heard the minister say that her ministry had been studying similar changes and that they will continue to study those changes.

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Opposition to the Bill
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In the U.S., the  National Restaurant Association joined dozens of U.S. health and citizens groups in supporting nutritional labeling on restaurant menus.
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However, in Ontario, Ron Reaman, vice-president of federal government affairs for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, described the bill as “wrong-headed.”
The CRFA’s own voluntary nutrition information program has restaurants publish a variety of nutritional indicators on their own websites. “[Calories], frankly, don’t tell the whole picture,” Mr. Reaman said. “Diet soda has less calories than a glass of milk, but is that a better food choice?”
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My POV
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  1. Studies have shown that nutrition labeling on menus is effective in reducing consumption for individuals who identify themselves as health conscious. They make use of the available information and modify their consumption.
  2. Those same studies show that the same nutritional information has little effect on people who do not identify themselves as health conscious. Makes sense, right?
  3. Knowledge = power…unless you don’t care about that particular chunk of knowledge.
  4. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association is doing their members a disservice by attempting to block this legislation. Obesity (and related lifestyle diseases) are eating up an ever expanding slice of our healthcare dollars. Public sentiment is shifting towards government involvement. Instead of blocking the bill, perhaps the CRFA could suggest that it’s members get ahead of public opinion and make the changes in advance of government legislation. They could show Ontarians that they care about their health.
  5. Mr. Reaman is right when he says that calories don’t tell the whole picture. In addition to calories, I would like to see macronutrients (pro, fat & carb) counts along with calories.
  6. Private member bills usually don’t pass into law. So, if we want this bill to pass, we need to take a little action.
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Action

  • And if you live outside of Ontario (sorry ’bout that), feel free to copy Bill 156 and send it to whichever politician you think could help you get similar legislation in your town, province, state, country, etc…

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