How would you feel about going out for a nice dinner and upon opening the menu you are face to face with calorie counts for every item in the menu? As per the Healthy Menu Choices Act, this is now a reality in Ontario for all food service providers with 20 or more locations as of January 1, 2017. This includes restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores, grocery stores and movie theatres. Although in Canada this regulation is only in effect in Ontario, other provinces may pick it up in the future. The goal is to help consumers make informed decisions about the food that they consume. The statement to be displayed on menus along with the calorie counts is “The average adult requires approximately 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day; however, individual calorie needs may vary.” This statement will be updated in 2018 to include a requirement for children.
This regulation is currently being governed by individual provinces in Canada, contrary to the US, which is taking a federal approach to the calorie count labeling of menus. By May 7, 2018, all eligible food service providers in the US must comply with the requirements, which are similar to those in Ontario.
Although the purpose of this new regulation is to promote healthy choices, some companies are fighting back against the required calorie posting. The main areas of concern from the food service industry are the cost to implement, its effectiveness and its lack of alternative nutritional information. It is important to consider that two foods with the same calorie content are not necessarily equal. Lots of nutrient-dense foods will be high in calories, but those calories may be the kind you want in your body, as opposed to those filled with fat and sodium. By adding only calories onto a menu, consumers are not getting the full picture about the nutrient content.
There is currently no talk from other provinces about implementing the Healthy Menu Choices Act any time soon, but based on industry and public reaction, other provinces may introduce their own regulations regarding menu labeling in the future.