The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.
A Private Member's legislation that would require fast food chains to disclose calorie information on menus has been sent to the Health Committee by the House of Commons. The bill would also require large full-service chain restaurants to disclose additional nutrition information on menus, food manufacturers to improve ingredient lists on processed food labels, and meat packers to put nutrition information on all fresh-meat labels. The Committee is required to report back to the House by September 30, 2004. "Cabinet support to move this bill forward is welcome," stated Bill Jeffery, L.LB. National Coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group based in Ottawa. "C-398 promises to help reduce diet-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and obesity," said Jeffery. Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (food labeling), sponsored by Liberal MP Tom Wappel, would require that, within two years of passage: fast food chains post the number of calories in menu items beside prices on menu boards, and require full-service restaurant chains (where more spacious menus are provided) to also display the amounts of saturated fat plus trans fat, and sodium; all fresh meat, poultry and seafood (not just ground, processed and frozen meat) sold in retail stores disclose full nutrition information (facts that are to be required for most other pre-packaged foods and meats by December 2005); and pre-packaged, processed foods disclose the percentage-by-weight of main ingredients and others that are especially relevant to health such as added sugars, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. In addition to better disclosure of nutrition and ingredient information, CSPI recommends that governments limit commercial advertising directed at children (especially for food), shift sales taxes from nutritious food items to junk foods, promote healthy eating and physical activity through school curriculum and mass media public service announcements, and fund preventative nutrition counselling services through Medicare. "We hope that governments will include such measures as part of the 'Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy' now being negotiated by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers of health and will consider them at the First Ministers meeting on health care this summer," said Jeffery. "The World Health Organization's (WHO) draft 'Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health' recognizes that such measures are essential parts of a comprehensive public health program that can help combat diet-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and help reduce obesity. Canada has been a real champion of the WHO's efforts to tackle diet-related disease and should now put those recommendations into action here at home," Jeffery said. Diet-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis cost Canadian society $6.3 billion, and as many as 25,000 lives annually. Obesity is a risk factor in the leading causes of death in Canada. Bill C-398 builds on nutrition label regulations announced in January 2003 by Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan when she was responsible for the health portfolio. Those regulations are predicted to generate $5 billion in health care cost savings and productivity gains Ñ 20 times greater than costs of modifying labels. Bill C-398 is also supported by 29 health and citizens groups representing two million Canadians.