CRFA disappointed in Ontario's choice of calorie posting over Informed Dining

TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) is disappointed by today's announcement that Ontario will ignore a national Informed Dining program and instead legislate calorie posting on menus and menu boards.

"Ontario is choosing to go it alone, out of step with other provinces," says Garth Whyte, CRFA President and CEO.  "B.C. and Manitoba have adopted the Informed Dining program and other provinces are currently working on implementation.  Ontario is the only province that refused to consider adoption of a successful program that provides a wider range of information in a user-friendly format."

Informed Dining was developed by the Government of British Columbia in collaboration with industry and health groups, and provides restaurant guests with nutrition values at or before the point of ordering. Calories and sodium are highlighted with information about daily requirements.

Participating restaurants must display the Informed Dining logo and a statement on their menu or menu board telling customers that nutrition information is available. All nutrition information is provided in a standard format.

Ontario's calorie-posting approach has been tried in other jurisdictions and has not worked. Several recent studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals have shown it has little to no effect on eating habits. That is why industry chose to work with governments to design the Informed Dining program that is rolling out across the country.

"Today's announcement is about politics, not health," says James Rilett, CRFA's Vice President, Ontario.  "Monitoring and policing calorie-posting programs comes with a significant cost, and there is no indication where the government will find the money."

Backgrounder:

Summary of Research Studies on Menu and Menu Board Labeling

  • International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, BioMed Central (2011).
    "Calorie menu labelling on quick-service restaurant menus:  an updated systematic review of the literature".  Jonas J Swartz, Danielle Braxton, Anthony J Viera.

    "The current evidence suggests that calorie labelling does not have the intended effect of decreasing calorie purchasing or consumption.

    "Though momentum has gathered behind menu labeling policies as a tool for combating overweight and obesity, evidence to support its efficacy is less robust."

    "Overall, the studies included in this review suggest that in both real world and experimental settings, calorie menu labeling has no effect or only modest effect on calorie ordering and consumption.  These results do not provide strong support for arguments that national expansion of calorie menu labelling will reduce rates of overweight and obesity."

    "From the evidence included in this review, it appears that menu labeling does not have the intended effect of decreasing calorie ordering and consumption from quick-service restaurants. …(15)"    (Allison D:  Evidence, discourse and values in obesity-oriented policy:  menu labeling as a conversation starter. Int J Obes 2011, 35:464-471)
  • American Journal of Public Health (September 27, 2013 Vol 103, No 9). "Supplementing Menu Labelling With Calorie Recommendations to Test for Facilitation Effects".  Julie S. Downs, PhD; Jessica Wisdom, PhD, Brian Wansink, PhD, and George Loewenstein, PhD

    "Although consumers' estimates of how many calories their meals contain improve, and those who report using labels tend to choose lower-calorie meals than those who report not using them, population-wide behaviour has been found to respond little if at all to calorie posting.

    "… although both studies observed a direct effect of recommendations, neither found a significant interaction between calorie labelling and calorie recommendations, suggesting that the recommendation did not facilitate use of labels."

  • International Journal of Obesity (2011), "Child and adolescent fast-food choice and the influence of calorie labelling:  a natural experiment", B. Elbel, J. Gyamfi, and R. Kersh

    "Similar to adult respondents in the handful of other evaluation studies conducted to date on the effects of calorie labelling, adolescents and children in this study - a group of racial and ethnic minorities from low-income areas - did not respond in any measurable way to the presence of labels within our study time period."

  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2011; 93:689-94).  "Exploring  how calorie information and taxes on high-calorie foods influence lunch decisions." Janneke CAH Giesen,  Collin R Payne, Remco C Havermans, and Anita Jansen

    "… examined whether adolescents change their fast food orders if they receive information on calorie and fat content of their menu choices.  They did not."

    "… calorie information combined with a food tax does not seem to add to a more healthy food choice.  However, this interaction of calorie information and tax too needs further research, not speculation."

  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2011; 93:679-80).  "Confronting reality:  pitfalls of calorie posting.George Loewenstein.

    "Very few of these studies found a beneficial effect of calorie posting, and even those that did, the effect was miniscule."
  • American Journal of Preventive Medicine, (40(2) 2011)" Mandatory Menu Labeling in One Fast Food Chain in King County, Washington", Finkelstien EA, Stormbotne KL, Chan NL, Krieger J. 

    Results:  No impact of the legislation on purchasing behaviour was found.  Trends in transactions and calories per transaction did not vary between control and intervention locations after the law was enacted.

    Conclusions:  In this setting, mandatory menu labelling did not promote healthier food-purchasing behaviour.

 

SOURCE: Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association

For further information:

MEDIA CONTACT: Prasanthi Vasanthakumar, Communications Specialist, 416-649-4254 or 1-800-387-5649, ext. 4254 or pvasanthakumar@crfa.ca

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