You may think twice before ordering that poutine, residents of Ontario, because soon, you will actually know just how many calories you're consuming.
With the passing of the Making Healthier Choices Act this week, the province will require any food service establishment with 20 or more locations in the province to display the number of calories right on their menu (or menu boards, as the case may be). Once royal assent is given (which is expected to happen later this year), the act will be enforced as of January 1, 2017.
In a press release distributed for the bill, the province notes that more than 60 per cent of chain restaurants already have the nutritional information on their websites or in brochures they give out to customers upon request. The big difference with the bill will be having the calorie count displayed right in front of the customers' faces, for both food and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration declared similar rules for chain establishments, including movie theatres, that are expected to be carried out by the end of 2015, reports the New York Times.
Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health, commended Ontario's decision, stating, “The posting of calories for food and beverage items on menus will empower Ottawa residents to make healthier food choices and raise their awareness of the calories they take in relative to the calories they need.”
According to a 2014 study from the University of Toronto, three-quarters of Canadians want to see nutritional information on their menus, including both calories and sodium.
So far, Ontario is the only province to pass this kind of bill, though British Columbia does have a voluntary program for restaurants to provide nutritional information, and provinces like Nova Scotia and Quebec have expressed interest in similar rules.
Some of the places you can expect to see the menus posted (based on their number of locations in Ontario) include Tim Hortons, The Keg, 7-Eleven, Harvey's, Jack Astor's, Boston Pizza, Kelsey's, New York Fries, Swiss Chalet, Hero Certified Burger and many more.
Any restaurants that doesn't follow suit will be faced with steep fines, starting at $500 per day and going up to $10,000 a day.
While this is a one step forward, we wouldn't mind seeing this in our smaller favourite joints as well. How many calories are really in that pad Thai?
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