US national menu labelling is expected to come into force this summer. The new regulations aim to ensure calorie labelling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines with 20 or more locations. We recently joined a US National Restaurant Association info session where we heard insights about what to expect next.
The intent of the menu labelling law is that: “People need nutritional information to exercise personal responsibility at the point of ordering in restaurants.” As such, the following 3 key features are expected on US restaurant menus and menu boards:
- The number of calories will be disclosed with the word “Calories’ or ‘Cal’ posted next to number.
- The following statement to help put the number of calories into context: “A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however individual needs may vary.”
- Additional nutrients (such as fat and sodium) will be available upon request, but not necessarily posted on the menu.
Mandatory menu labelling is a controversial issue for reasons that include menu variability and questions about long-term impact. However, health and consumer groups welcome the calorie and nutrient information regulations.
Research shows that seeing calories on the menu impacts immediate purchase decisions and that consumers tend to underestimate the caloric content of menu items, especially those with higher calories. It’s important to put calorie education in context so it does not become an issue whether the menu item is 400 or 420 calories. Menu labelling is about providing information so that consumers can make an informed choice between something that’s 1200 calories versus 200 calories.
Will Health Canada follow the US restaurant menu labelling? Only time will tell, and we’ll keep you posted. More information about next steps in menu labelling is available by contacting us.
Health Canada recently announced proposed new changes to the Nutrition Facts table and ingredients lists with the goal of improving nutrition information on food labels. We encourage you to you consider the proposed changes and voice your opinion to Health Canada through their 10 question on-online survey and/or technical consultation before September 11th, 2014.
Some of the key proposed changes include:
- listing Calories in a bigger and bold font
- using consistent serving sizes on similar foods
- increasing the Daily Value for fat and calcium, and decreasing the Daily Value for sodium
- removing the % Daily Value for fibre and total carbohydrates
- adding information about added sugars by including a % Daily Value for sugars as well as showing the amount of added sugars in the product
- removing vitamins A and C, but adding potassium and vitamin D to the label
- grouping nutrients that we should limit (fat, sodium and sugar) at the top half of the label
- grouping nutrients that we need to get enough of (fibre, vitamins, minerals) at the bottom half of the label.
The consultation period is now open, and all consumers and stakeholders are invited to provide input on the proposed changes. We strongly urge you to let your voice be heard and share your feedback in shaping this important national nutrition labelling regulation.
Health Canada has developed three consumer fact sheets about Serving Sizes, Nutrition Facts table and Ingredient List and Sugar Content. Consumers can provide their feedback through a 10 question online survey.
For food and health professionals, there is also a series of five technical consultation documents which explain the rationale for the proposed changes: Format Requirements, Core Nutrients, Daily Values (%DV), Reference Amounts and Serving Sizes. You are also invited to provide feedback to each of these consultation documents.
All comments must be submitted to Health Canada by September 11, 2015. Please contact us for assistance in reviewing the proposed changes, providing feedback to the consultation, and discussing how these changes may impact your products’ nutrition claims.