The Ontario Healthy Menu Choices Act
Rory McCreight – Sports Editor
Has this happened to you recently? You and your friend(s) go into a McDonald’s (or Burger King, Subway, Popeye’s, etc.) and you or someone else says, always with either a smirk or a laugh, “I hate seeing how many calories I’m going to eat.” It is true that it’s not nice to see just how many calories three burgers run up on your daily total (over half of it, for those curious) but it’s that laugh that gives away the tone of people’s reception to the law — the law which creates an uncomfortable, but necessary mirror that will surely improve people’s eating habits over time.
The “Ontario Healthy Menu Choices Act” was passed by the Ontario legislature in 2015 and implemented on January 1, 2017. According to the Ontario Health website, the law “set out rules about how to display calorie information on menus. [The rules] deal with things such as the exact size and placement of the text.” Businesses must also post the average calorie needs of adults (2000 calories per day) and children (1500), while acknowledging that needs vary. The law only applies to chains with 20 or more locations across Ontario, including restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, grocery stores, and movie theatres.
The main goal of the law is to encourage Canadians to make informed decisions about their health and their eating habits. It forces Canadians to consider their caloric intake and the amount of food that they consume on a daily basis in respect to the norm.
Furthermore, the legislation encourages honesty and transparency from our major food suppliers. It means that for every shiny, glossy menu photo there is going to be a cold fact right next to it. It’s ugly and obtrusive, but it helps cut through some of the BS. It’s a direct means of understanding what goes into our body.
The effects might be a bit uncomfortable and frustrating in the short-term, but in the long run it will likely lead to across-the-board improvements. Consumers will gradually flock to the healthier options, just through sheer, daily encounters with their daily consumption quotas. Better yet, it will further incentivize companies to create and promote healthier options. Because of the omnipresence of the nutritional information, advertisers will begin to find ways to incorporate the information into their presentations. Instead of trying to hide what now must be shown, advertisers ought to lean into the law and lead with the facts by bringing healthier options that could then be incorporated into their menu’s presentations.