The Government of Ontario has released proposed amendments to clarify the calorie disclosure requirements pursuant to the Healthy Menu Choices Act, 2015. The requirements will come into force on January 1, 2017 and provide that owners of food service premises that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations in Ontario must display prescribed calorie information for every standard food and beverage item that is listed on a menu (whether printed or electronic) or in an advertisement, subject to certain exceptions.

The amendments, which are available here, are intended to clarify the application of these calorie disclosure requirements. The following proposed amendments are particularly noteworthy in terms of their advertising and marketing implications:

  1. Billboards, radio and television advertisements would be exempted.
  2. The definition of "menu" would require that it must be a written means of communication.
  3. The requirements would only apply online/app menus and advertisements that: (a) are distributed outside of the food service premises; (b) list a price for the food item that can be ordered for takeaway or delivery; and (c) provide a method to place an order.
  4. The following food items would be exempt, if sold in grocery stores:
    • Deli meats and cheeses normally sold by weight and that are not part of another standard food item (e.g. a sandwich);
    • Flavoured bread, buns and rolls that are not part of another standard food item;
    • Prepared fruits and vegetables for a group of people (e.g. salads and fruit/vegetable trays); and
    • Olives and antipasti that are not part of another standard food item
  5. All food items in vending machines would be exempt.

The proposed amendments are subject to change. We will be paying close attention to any further developments to these important new requirements affecting the food and beverage industry. For additional background information, please see Gowling WLG’s earlier articles on menu calorie labelling, restaurant calorie disclosure and the regulations.