The Making Healthy Choices Act ( the “Act”) received royal assent on May 28, 2015 and will come into force on Jan. 1, 2017. Moving forward, chain restaurants, convenience stores, and other food service premises will now be required to post calories (and possibly other nutrient information) for standard ready-to-eat and prepared food and beverage items.  

All food service chains with 20 or more premises in Ontario, operating under substantially the same name and offering substantially the same food, will be captured by this law. The responsibility to comply may extend broadly to a person who has the responsibility for and control over the activities of the premises, including franchisors, licensors, subsidiary owners and operators, and managers.

According to the Act, the calories of all standard food items must be listed on each menu (including menus available or distributed offsite) where the food item is displayed or depicted and on tags or labels when the item is displayed in-store. A standard food item is a food or beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) that has standardized servings for portion and content. Separate calorie labelling will be required for all flavours, varieties, and sizes, as well as combination meals.

The province is currently developing regulations to:

  • further define a “standard food item” and any exemptions;
  • define other nutrient declaration requirements, which may include sodium or sugar labelling;
  • further specify or clarify the meaning of “a person who owns and operates” the food service premise and any exemptions;
  • determine the content, size, prominence, format, and type of caloric and nutritional information menu postings and other contextual “signs” that must be publically posted at the premises; and
  • determine how caloric content must be tested or calculated.

Menu labelling inspectors may be appointed under the Act and have broad powers. Inspectors will be able enter a regulated food service premise or business, without a warrant, to inspect a standard food item, record, or any other thing that is relevant to the inspection. The inspector can take photos, remove food items or records, and ask questions.

Individuals found guilty of a first offence may be subject to a maximum fine of $500 for every day of non-compliance.  Corporations face a more severe punishment of $5000 per day for a first offence, and a maximum of $10,000 per day for subsequent offences. Directors and officers of a corporation may be held liable if they do not take all reasonable care to ensure compliance. 

Prior to enforcement, it will be important for regulated food premise owners and operators  and food service suppliers to stay engaged in the regulatory development process as the outcome may have a significant financial impact on your business.

The Act also created restrictions on e-cigarettes and flavoured tobacco. For further details or to access the content of the Making Healthy Choices Actclick here.

Written with the assistance of Houtan Mashinchi.