Savvy Diners celebrated with us on October 9th when Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Deb Matthews, announced the province was moving ahead with legislation requiring large chain restaurants to post calorie and other nutritional information on restaurant menus. More recently, media coverage about Informed Dining, a voluntary restaurant program, has left some people scratching their heads about what diners can expect in Ontario.
Since Informed Dining is voluntary, it is limited only to restaurants that choose to participate. The program’s aim is to provide consumers with nutritional information on the menu, a website or in a brochure. The requirement is for restaurants to provide nutrition information on all thirteen nutrients found on a Nutrition Facts Table, plus calories. So far, the Informed Dining participants seem to be using the latter two methods vs posting right on the menu. Who has time to sort through brochures when ordering at a restaurant? This is a YouTube clip that we have shown before http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD4m6WN3Tlg . It clearly shows the challenges with not having the information directly on the menu!
We applaud the Ontario government for recognizing that a voluntary, “available upon request” approach to providing nutrition information simply doesn’t cut it. The evidence shows that posting nutrient info on menus and menu boards — rather than providing it online or in brochures — is more likely to influence diners to make healthier food choices. The province’s decision to proceed with legislation to require menu labelling for large chain restaurants is a good plan for Savvy Diners across Ontario. We hope that the province will seize this opportunity to provide leadership based on the best available evidence and that we will see a commitment to add sodium information to menus, in addition to calories. Toronto Savvy Diners anxiously await the province’s next steps.