SIMCOE, July 3rd, 2015 – Consumers in Ontario will no longer be in the dark about how many calories are in their favourite foods and beverages from popular food chains. The Government of Ontario has passed the Making Healthier Choices Act, 2015 (Bill 45). This act requires all large chain food premises to display calorie information on menus and menu boards. These large chain food premises include restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores.
“Nutrition information on menus gives consumers the tools they need to make healthy and informed choices about the foods they eat and feed their families” said Laura Goyette, public health dietitian at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “While many experts recommended the inclusion of both calories and sodium on menus, the passing of this bill is a step towards making the food environment in Ontario healthier.”
The act will require large food service premises with 20 or more locations to:
- Label menus and menu boards with calorie information for standard food and beverage items, including alcohol.
- Provide context to displayed calorie information by referencing daily caloric requirements, and
- Allow public health inspectors to enforce menu labelling regulations.
Ontario is the first province in Canada to pass menu labelling legislation. Prior to this, food service establishments only provided nutrition information on a voluntary basis. A 2011 study by Ipsos Reid found that 95% of Ontarians supported nutrition labelling on fast food menus.
The current legislation does not close the door for other nutrients, such as sodium, to be added in the future, which Goyette finds encouraging. “Making healthy choices can be difficult when only being guided by one nutrient, such as calories,”said Goyette. “For example, a cookie has fewer calories than a Greek yogurt parfait. However, the parfait has less sodium and more protein, fibre, calcium and iron, which makes it the healthier choice.”
Each year in Canada, the proportion of meals consumed outside of the home is on the rise. The labelling changes may encourage restaurants to carry healthier options or to modify existing recipes to increase nutritional value.
Specific regulations are expected to be published this summer or fall, with the act coming into full effect on January 1st, 2017.
To view Bill 45, Making Healthier Choices Act, 2015, please visit www.ontla.on.ca.
Public Health Dietitian
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3247