Use your new authority under Bill 45, the Making Healthier Choices Act, to make chain restaurants post sodium levels on menus.

Petition Closed

Use your new authority under Bill 45, the Making Healthier Choices Act, to make chain restaurants post sodium levels on menus.

This petition had 362 supporters

Bill Jeffery started this petition to Honourable Dipika Damerla (Associate Minister of Health and Long-term Care)

By the end of 2015, the Ontario legislature is expected to pass Bill 45, Making Healthier Choices Act (House vote in May 2015) and detailed regulations (consultation in the summer/fall) specifying the ground rules for chain restaurants that prefer to disclose nutrition information in text too small to see and in places that are anywhere but on the menu.  By January 2017, Bill 45 will require outlets of large restaurant chains to post calories for all standard menu items as part of the province's strategy to reduce childhood obesity.

Seeing calories right on menus is important, but we can't wait years for sodium information to be posted there, too. 

Please send a message to Minister Dipika Damerla that pressure is mounting in Canadians' arteries for sodium levels to also be posted on menus.  Approximately 90% of people will eventually be diagnosed with hypertension, much of which is caused by an excessively salty food supply.  The lion's share of blood pressure medication is paid for by provincial government drug benefits for seniors, public servants, and low income people which means a bonanza for giant drug companies and pharmacies, like Shopper's Drug Mart which is owned by Ontario's (and Canada's) largest grocery store chain, Loblaws. 

Providing only calories on menus could nudge people to eat even saltier blood-pressure-raising food than they do now, because salt is calorie-free and is often added to foods when sugar or fat is reduced to trim calories.

In 2010, when Ontario Premier Wynne was co-chair of the Council of the Federation, she led Provincial Premiers and Territorial Leaders the a unanimous expert report that set the interim goal to reduce average daily sodium intake from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg by 2016.  When Ontario Deputy Premier Matthews was Minister of Health, she led Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers called for regulations to be developed in case timely voluntary sodium reductions were not met.  

Since then, nothing much has been done by federal or provincial governments to make consumers better informed or food less salty.  Studies conducted by CSPI and University of Toronto researchers found that, on average, net reductions in sodium levels have been very small and many companies are even adding more salt to their prepackaged foods and restaurant menu items.  While McDonald’s ads are beginning to boast how low in calories some of its menu items are, its website reveals that 18 of its sandwiches and salads contain more than 1,000 mg of sodium, and many of the others are nearly as salty: http://www1.mcdonalds.ca/NutritionCalculator/NutritionFactsEN.pdf   Thirteen of Tim Hortons sandwiches are four-digit numbers:  http://timhortons.com/ca/en/pdf/Tim_Hortons_Nutrition_Guide_-_Canada_English.pdf  Health Canada recommends that most Canadians aim for 1,500 mg of sodium per day from all sources, and even less for seniors and children, and no more than 2,300 mg: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/sodium/index-eng.php

Ontario’s Bill 45 is Canada's first government-backed effort to get nutrition information on chain restaurant menus, though Toronto's Medical Officer of Health (and most major health groups) have urged MPPs and the Ministry of Health to also require sodium disclosures.  Bill 45 specifically requires chains to disclose calorie information, and empowers the government to pass regulations specifying minimum print size and requiring other nutrition information it sees fit.

Urge the Ontario Associate Minister of Health to also require sodium numbers on menus by using her new authority to pass regulations doing so.   Ontario could be a real leader nationally in helping to inform Canadians about sodium levels in restaurants that mostly serve other Canadians.  Six years ago, the British Columbia government regulated trans fat out of BC restaurants (http://www.restricttransfat.ca/media/upload/file/BC_Regulation.pdf) and consumers across the country benefitted.  Ontario could be a sodium-reduction leader.

Families, especially children, deserve strong menu-disclosure legislation in Ontario and across Canada, because chains would prefer to keep their levels of sodium high, but the profile of sodium low.

Sincerely,

Bill Jeffery, LLB, National Coordinator

Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter

P.S. If you want to read-up on these topics, see some links on CSPI’s website, including:

* our two-page technical brief to the legislative committee reviewing the bill in April: http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/cspi-tech-brief.menu-labelling.ontario-standing-cttee-on-general-govt.april-21-2015.pdf,

* our two-page comment on the outcome of the Committee study of Bill 45 http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/april27-2015-ontario-menu-label-cttee-clause-by-clause.bill-45.pdf, and

* a two-page joint statement on menu labelling that has been endorsed by more than 40 experts and healthgroups: http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/expert_ngo.jointletter.menu-labelling.pdf  

Petition Closed

This petition had 362 supporters