Ontario's doctors call for calorie labelling on fast food and cafeteria menus

    TORONTO, April 7 /CNW/ - In a move to help combat obesity, Ontario's
doctors are calling for calorie counts to be shown prominently on chain
restaurant and school cafeteria menus and menu boards province-wide. The
Ontario Medical Association (OMA) says that by revealing the caloric content
of fast foods, consumers will be better equipped with the information they
need to make healthier choices.
    "People lead busy lives and it's not always convenient to prepare food at
home," said Dr. Ken Arnold, President of the OMA. "Ontario's doctors are not
telling people what they can and can't eat, but when you do eat out, you
should know how many calories you are consuming."
    The OMA wants to see:

    -   Early action on menu labelling from leaders in the restaurant field.
    -   The provincial government enact legislation that would require
        calorie contents to be listed adjacent to the items on menus and menu
        boards at chain restaurants and school cafeterias across the
    -   An education campaign to help inform Ontarians about the impact of
        caloric intake on weight gain and obesity.

    The OMA is focussing on labelling calories due to common misconceptions
surrounding the caloric content of many chain restaurant meals. An OMA policy
paper entitled An Ounce of Prevention or a Ton of Trouble shows that most
people consume more food than they are aware of and that they do not keep
track of caloric intake.
    "We're hoping that when consumers see calories posted while ordering they
may choose to order something lower in calories, or eat higher calorie meals
less often," said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, Medical Director at the Bariatric
Medical Institute in Ottawa.
    A new OMA report, Treatment of Childhood Overweight and Obesity,
highlights the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity and the need for
action. It shows that:

    -   A quarter of children are overweight or obese, almost half are
        inactive and television and computer screen time is their pastime of
    -   There is evidence linking type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, non-alcoholic
        fatty liver disease, certain types of sleep apnea and the development
        of chronic kidney disease later in life to children who are
        overweight or obese.
    -   Over 75% of obese children become obese adults.
    -   Overall, the health impacts of overweight and obesity are estimated
        to cost Ontario $2.2 to $2.5 billion per year.

    Ontario's doctors want to see menu labelling enacted to help parents and
children make informed choices about the foods they eat. A recent survey by
the OMA shows that over 80 per cent of Ontarians support such an initiative.
    "As physicians, we know that Ontarians want to lead healthier lives,"
said Dr. Arnold. "Ultimately, knowing and understanding calorie intake can
help patients make healthy choices for themselves and that's empowering."

                    Caloric Menu Labelling - Backgrounder

    The Problem

    -   According to the 2005 OMA report An Ounce of Prevention or a Ton of
        Trouble, we may be raising the first generation of children who will
        not outlive their parents.
        -  The report also shows that almost 60 per cent of Canadian adults
           are overweight or obese.
    -   A study by the New York City Department of Health found that most
        consumers underestimate calorie content - sometimes by more than
    -   A recent study out of Yale University observed 4,311 people at a
        handful of fast food restaurants that did not have calories listed on
        menus. Of this group, only six, or 0.1 per cent, looked at the
        nutrition information provided in the form of a poster, in a pamphlet
        or on a special touch-screen computer.
    -   According to the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition, 62 per cent
        of Canadians eat lunch/dinner out at least once per week.

    Menu Labelling in Other Jurisdictions

    -   In July 2008, a New York City (NYC) law came into effect mandating
        caloric menu labelling in chain restaurants with more than 15
        locations nationally.
    -   The law requires that calories must be posted prominently on menu
        boards and menus, per menu item and for combo meals.
    -   A California law will soon be implemented and national legislation
        has been introduced in the U.S. but not yet passed.
    -   Many chain restaurants across the U.S. are acting to voluntarily
        provide some additional menu labelling information.

    Why chain restaurants?

    -   As a whole, they serve food clearly associated with high calorie
        intake and obesity.
    -   Chains have standardized preparation and portion sizes which make the
        provision of accurate calorie information more feasible.
    -   Menus and menu boards in chain restaurants are already often changed
        for marketing purposes.

    The Results

    -   Evidence shows that labelling has decreased the total calories that
        customers order and has also resulted in restaurants reducing the
        total calories in their menu items.
    -   An NYC study found that customers who saw calorie information while
        ordering consumed 15 per cent less calories than those who didn't.

    The Calories - some examples
             Mains & Sides                                          Calories
    Side Salad (w. vinaigrette dressing)                               140
    Crisp Chicken Caesar Salad (w. dressing & croutons)                650
    Thousand Islands Burger                                            560
    6-inch Turkey Sub                                                  280
    Roast Beef Wrap (w. mustard)                                       441
    Toasted Tuna Melt Sub                                             1230
    French Fries (med.)                                                380
    Onion Rings                                                        900

For further information:

For further information: OMA Media Relations at (416) 340-2862 or
toll-free at 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862

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