In a recent announcement, the Government of Ontario unveiled its plan to introduce legislation this winter aimed at curbing obesity by requiring restaurant chains to include nutritional information on menus. The government expects that the immediate presence of nutritional information at certain restaurants will assist Ontarians in making healthy choices.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews, who announced the forthcoming legislation to the media on October 9, 2013, stated that the new legislation will focus on large restaurant chains, and will not capture small independent restaurants. However, specifics regarding which restaurants will be subject to the new law, and what information must be displayed to consumers under it, will only be determined after a consultation process. The Government of Ontario has indicated that the consultation process will include discussions with the public, experts, and various stakeholders in the food services industry.

Consultations will also include a discussion with the media and telecommunications industries of how to limit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. However, no legislation has been announced regarding this latter initiative.

If the law is adopted, it will be the first law of its kind in Canada. Organizations operating in the food services industry should keep an eye on the progress of this legislation to determine whether they will be affected by it. Those organizations captured by the new legislation will likely be obligated to implement measures to determine the nutritional information of food and beverages served in addition to redesigning customer menus.

The proposed legislation faces opposition from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, which represents a large number of food services corporations. The Association instead believes that voluntary compliance with its Informed Dining program will be more effective. The Informed Dining program, which requires volunteer participants to display of nutritional information in a consistent format, was developed by the Government of British Columbia in cooperation with industry, and has been adopted by British Columbia and Manitoba. 

The official Ontario press release is available here.