Ontario legislation to overhaul in-store calorie advertising requirements

There are some sweeping new food and beverage disclosure requirements coming into play for the food industry in Ontario. The Healthy Menu Choices Act, willcome into force on January 1, 2017, and will require food service providers with 20 or more locations in Ontario to display the calories in food and beverage items. These disclosures will need appear in multiple locations, and there are very specific formatting requirements associated with these disclosures. Compliance with these requirements could apply both to franchisees/licensees as well as their franchisers/licensors, depending on each party’s level of control over menus.

The number of calories in each standard food or beverage will need to be displayed on menus (including take away menus, with some exceptions) and in-store display items. These requirements only apply to standard items intended for immediate consumption without further preparation. The calorie disclosure must be made for each variety, flavour and size of the same/similar item, as well as to any combination meals depicted or listed for sale. These changes may require significant revising of existing menus, particularly where your restaurant offers a combination meal with multiple sizes of beverages or sides.

In addition to the menu and tag calorie disclosures, each location will need to post one or more signs with a nutritional statement setting out the approximate total daily calories recommended (for children and adults). Here is a sample: “The average adult requires approximately 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day; however, individual needs may vary.”

These changes will come with significant costs. Businesses should prepare accordingly for revisions to menus, in-store displays and signage. For some products, the highlighting of calories could also necessitate product re-formulation. While these regulatory updates will need to be budgeted for, consider aligning them with other business interests. If your business is also due for an overall branding renovation, consider using the new regulatory requirements as an perfect excuse to bump this up on the to-do list.