Menu Labelling Legislation Re-Introduced

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Author: Marc LaBerge

Posted: November 25, 2014

Categories: Food in the News / GoodFoodBites / Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy / Policy News

Yesterday, the Ontario government introduced Bill 45, Making Healthier Choices Act, which includes provisions that would require restaurants and food service operations that are part of a chain of 20 or more establishments to post the number of calories (and potentially other nutritional information) for each food item on their menus.  This was a key recommendation of the Healthy Kids Panel, which was asked to provide advice on how to reduce childhood obesity in Ontario.

The menu labelling provisions proposed in Bill 45 remain unchanged from what was originally introduced in Bill 162 in February 2014, but died when the Legislature was dissolved for the provincial election.  Key provisions of Bill 45 are as follows:

  • Requires regulated restaurant or food service establishments to post calories and any other nutritional information required by the regulations for each standard food item on their menus and displays, including menus distributed outside the restaurant.
  • Defines regulated restaurants or food service establishments as being part of a chain of 20 or more premises operating under the same name and offering the same menu items.
  • Provides for inspectors who may enter an establishment during business hours to ensure compliance, with powers to examine and remove food items or records.
  • Creates penalties for a first offence of up to $500 per day for individuals and up to $5,000 per day for corporations, and up to $1,000 per day for individuals and $10,000 per day for corporations for subsequent offences.

The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health has noted that menu labelling is an effective population-wide means to contribute to chronic disease prevention.  According to their research, diners frequently underestimate the number of calories in a meal by about 30 per cent, so this would help people make more informed food choices when eating out.

Menu labelling can also help to increase Ontarians’ food literacy and skills by providing consumers with information to help make healthier food choices when eating away from home. Increasing food literacy is a key objective of the province’s Local Food Act, as well as the stakeholder-led Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy–a multi-pronged strategy to promote healthy food and food systems that Sustain Ontario has helped to coordinate with the input of over 200 food and farming experts.

Sustain Ontario will continue to monitor this important legislation as it makes its way through the Legislature, and will engage its members on how it might be strengthened and improved to support healthier food and food systems in Ontario.

For more policy research on menu labelling, see Toronto Public Health’s technical report, What’s on the Menu? or the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health’s position paper, Serving Up Nutrition Information in Ontario’s Restaurants.