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Chain restaurants in Ontario will have to post calorie info by 2017

Soon Ontario diners will no longer be in the dark when it comes to how many calories are on their plate while dining at chain restaurants. AP Photo/Matthew Mead

TORONTO — Ignorance will no longer be bliss when indulging in dinner at some restaurants across the province. MPPs passed Bill 45 this week, mandating eateries with 20 or more locations to post caloric values for their culinary offerings.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Dr. Jan Hux, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Canadian Diabetes Association. “One study from Starbucks showed a 6 per cent reduction in calories [consumed by patrons], another study showed about a 10 per cent reduction from such interventions.”
Chain restaurants in Ontario will have to post calorie info by 2017 - image

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Carlo Carlucci of Hero Certified Burgers isn’t worried the information will scare away the hungry. He says his burgers have other selling points: “[The meat] is grain fed, hormone free, antibiotic free.”

Ontario becomes the first province in Canada to mandate the disclosure of caloric information.

“If it’s a sit-down restaurant then obviously the information will be on the menu; if it isn’t, then on the billboard,” said Dipika Damerla, the province’s Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

But critics say the law doesn’t go far enough.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest wants sodium (salt) levels to be included in the law, citing health outcomes of over-consumption.

“Estimates are between five and 15,000 people die every year in Canada as a result of sodium-related heart disease – that’s heart attacks and strokes related to premature death,” said Bill Jeffery, the organization’s national coordinator.

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Damerla noted the law can be changed in the future.

“We were clear from the very beginning that we were going to start with calorie information, but we do have the power down the road to introduce other items,” she said.

Enforcement will be handled by public health officers who can serve up heavy fines ranging from $500 to $10,000. Obesity-related healthcare costs are much higher: around $1.6 billion a year in the province of Ontario.

Dr. Hux says the law could have a pre-emptive effect as well: “It may prompt the producers and vendors of food to change their foods so that the numbers that appear on their calorie boards don’t seem so scary.”

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