In my previous post, I outlined some of the difficulties in determining what’s on your plate when you eat out. Posting nutrition information on menu boards at chain restaurants simply makes sense.
Yet there are many staunch opponents.
Not surprisingly most of these same eateries are not in favour of making these disclosures. One of the most common arguments is that it won’t make any difference in terms of what their patrons will choose.
But I beg to differ: there are studies that show the opposite. Nutrition information listings can indeed influence choices.
But as in other aspects of life, it’s all about location.
Yes, pamphlets and the internet may offer some assistance but if the info is staring you in the face, then it does make a difference.
A recent study, presented by David Hammond, an associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo at the Canadian Public Health Association 2013 Annual Conference in Ottawa, backs this up. The research, reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal news, compared the availability, awareness and use of nutrition information in restaurants located in areas with different menu labelling policies.
The three sites used included Toronto, where there is currently no policy with regards to menu labelling, Vancouver, where the policy is voluntary and Seattle where it is mandatory to post nutrition information on chain restaurant menus.
The researchers surveyed more than 2900 patrons as they left both fast food and full-service eateries. More than twice the number of diners in in Seattle (56 %) reported being aware of the nutrition information compared to those in Toronto (25%) and Vancouver (22 %).
The Seattle subjects also showed that the greater awareness was also linked to making more nutritious choices. 8.4% of Seattle patrons reporting the nutrition information influenced a healthier meal selection, compared to 1.3% in Toronto and less than 1% in Vancouver.
There are other studies with similar findings.
But can we expect to see mandatory nutrition labelling in Canada anytime soon? Well we certainly won’t see anything on a federal level. Just look at what happened with Bill C-460 – Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada. Even with all the major health groups advocating on its behalf, our government decided to forsake the health of Canadians and instead opted to protect the financial health of industry.
In Ontario, in October 2012, yet another bill calling for nutrition information on menus in chain restaurants by NDP MPP France Gélinas never made it anywhere when the legislature was again prorogued.
But now the City of Toronto has lost its patience. If there is no provincial legislation in the works, then Toronto Public Health wants to go forth with their own program, Savvy Diner. Toronto Public Health’s report recommends mandating chain restaurants to put calorie and sodium values on menus and menu boards and encourages smaller independent restaurants to participate in menu labelling on a voluntary basis.
It’s unfortunate if providing patrons with nutrition information has to come about city by city.
Canadians deserve better.
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Do you think menu labelling should be mandatory? Please share your opinion in the comment section below.