If Knowledge = Power, then Lack of Knowledge = Obesity

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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0 thoughts on “If Knowledge = Power, then Lack of Knowledge = Obesity

  1. This makes me think of cigarettes. Labels and warnings were added and people still bought them and smoked and got cancer.

    Sometimes I feel like we’re trying to take the responsibility from the consumer and placing it on the food industry. We learned in Food Inc. that we cast votes with every dollar we spend and food item we buy. Well, regardless of the nutritional content (or lack thereof), people are still dumping billions into McHell and others. I just wish we could do away with all of the fast food altogether.

  2. QUOTE:
    “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. Those same studies show that the same nutritional information has little effect on people who do not identify themselves as health conscious.”

    We can’t make people make healthy choices, but at least the information can be made available. Legislation like this is good.

  3. Dan, I think you are right.

    The ultra health conscious person is probably not going to even set foot in the restaurants affected by this legislation
    The person unconcerned with their health isn’t going to make their dining choices based upon calories

    But for everyone else…the people who care about their health, but aren’t obsessed about calories and grams of carbs….having this info will make a big difference in how they order. And that’s why this info is important.

  4. This type of information does help me when I’m forced to be at an outing with friends or family, as I can look information up beforehand and think of possible orders to meet my needs. Dont ask me why, but my folks love the Olive Garden, and they microwave up pre-cooked sauces and dump it on chicken and pasta. Unless I want a wilted salad with no dressing, I have to find something decent. At least with nutrition info, when thinking of seafood vs. chicken, I can weigh hidden sodium vs. hidden carbs and find a way to de-breadcrumb, etc. yeah?I am quite careful about ingredients and sourcing, not just numbers, and if I have any say in where we will be eating, this info definitely sways my vote, esp. in regard to sourcing. I was born in NY, lived in Massachusetts, and now am in Colorado, where most places are required to show ingredients and standard nutritional info. I don’t know if that’s what you all will be getting as well. If it helps people who care about what they eat– let it! If it helps even a few unfit people, even better.

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