Ottawa and Queen’s Park Consider Mandating Nutrition Info on Menus of Chain-Restaurant Menus

OTTAWA (May 8, 2012)— Bill Jeffery, LLB, National Coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, made the following comment on initiatives in the Ottawa Board of Health (its HEAL Strategy) and a provincial Private Member’s Bill to be introduced in the Ontario Legislature today:

While federal politicians still ponder proposals to require nutrition information on restaurant menus, chains throughout the United States soon will be required to list calories on menus and officials in the City of Ottawa and Queen’s Park will consider requiring calorie and sodium information on menus.  Even professional dietitians can’t accurately estimate calorie and sodium levels in restaurant fare.  A report published by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest in February, Writing on the Wall: Time to put nutrition information on restaurant menus, showed that restaurant foods are generally high in calories and sodium and that two-fold and five-fold variations, respectively, are common even within similar product categories at the same restaurants.  Many health-conscious consumers would choose differently and restaurants might change recipes if calories and sodium information were displayed right on menus.  Consider that:

  • Tim Hortons Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich had nearly double the calories (530 calories) of the English Muffin with Egg and Cheese (280 Calories);
  • McDonald’s Angus Bacon & Cheese Sandwich has nearly triple the sodium (1,990 mg) of the Big Xtra Sandwich (700 mg).

Two large studies—one of 8,000 New York chain-restaurant customers and one of 100 million Starbucks transaction records—indicated that 11%-14% reductions in calories ordered can be expected, with bigger effects demonstrated among people who report reading the labels and for food (as opposed to beverages).

Today, CSPI released a statement calling for calorie and sodium labelling at chain restaurants that was signed by 24 health groups and experts, including the Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Stroke Network, Hypertension Canada, Canadian Women’s Health Network, Dietitians of Canada, Childhood Obesity Foundation, Fitness Industry Council of Canada, and Public Health Physicians of Canada.

For more information, contact:
Bill Jeffery at 613-244-7337 (ext. 1) or [email protected] or read his deposition to the Ottawa Board of Health or his comment on the Ontario bill, see: http://www.cspinet.org/canada/foodlabelling.html