Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Breaking News: OMA calls for posting of menu board calories!

As you're reading this, I'm probably answering questions at the press conference as I was invited by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to help roll out their call to have calories posted on chain menu restaurants and in school cafeterias.

I'm thrilled with the call to action and honoured to help out.

Here's the OMA's press release on the matter:

Ontario’s doctors call for calorie labelling on fast food and cafeteria menus

Toronto, April 7, 2009 – In a move to help combat obesity, Ontario’s doctors are calling for calorie counts to be shown prominently on chain restaurant and school cafeteria menus and menu boards province-wide. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) says that by revealing the caloric content of fast foods, consumers will be better equipped with the information they need to make healthier choices.

“People lead busy lives and it’s not always convenient to prepare food at home,” said Dr. Ken Arnold, President of the OMA. “Ontario’s doctors are not telling people what they can and can’t eat, but when you do eat out, you should know how many calories you are consuming.”

The OMA wants to see:

• Early action on menu labeling from leaders in the restaurant field.
• The provincial government enact legislation that would require calorie contents to be listed adjacent to the items on menus and menu boards at chain restaurants and school cafeterias across the province.
• An education campaign to help inform Ontarians about the impact of caloric intake on weight gain and obesity.

The OMA is focussing on labelling calories due to common misconceptions surrounding the caloric content of many chain restaurant meals. An OMA policy paper entitled An Ounce of Prevention or a Ton of Trouble shows that most people consume more food than they are aware of and that they do not keep track of caloric intake.

“We’re hoping that when consumers see calories posted while ordering they may choose to order something lower in calories, or eat higher calorie meals less often,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, Medical Director at the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa.

A new OMA report, Treatment of Childhood Overweight and Obesity, highlights the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity and the need for action. It shows that:

• A quarter of children are obese, almost half are inactive and television and computer screen time is their pastime of choice.
• There is evidence linking type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, certain types of sleep apnea and the development of chronic kidney disease later in life to children who are overweight or obese.
• Over 75% of obese children become obese adults.
• Overall, the health impacts of overweight and obesity are estimated to cost Ontario $2.2 to $2.5 billion per year.

Ontario’s doctors want to see menu labelling enacted to help parents and children make informed choices about the foods they eat. A recent survey by the OMA shows that over 80% of Ontarians support such an initiative.

“As physicians, we know that Ontarians want to lead healthier lives,” said Dr. Arnold. “Ultimately, knowing and understanding calorie intake can help patients make healthy choices for themselves and that’s empowering.”

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For further information: OMA Media Relations at (416) 340-2862 or toll-free at 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862.

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  1. Do most doctors even know what a calorie is?

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  3. That's great! It's good to see the OMA standing up for this. It certainly can't hurt, but how big of an impact do you think this will have on people's eating habits? It's great that we're giving people info on what they shouldn't eat, I just wish we weren't constantly confusing them on what they should eat.

  4. Hi Travis,

    We're not actually suggesting people be told what to eat and what not to eat, just that they be given calories to help them make their own decisions.

    The currency of weight is indeed calories. Go shopping, generally we look at price tags. Hit a restaurant and without calories there, we really have no idea what we're getting.

    In New York City it has already been shown that posted calories on menu boards cause consumers to choose lower calorie options and has led the food industry to reformulate existing recipes and launch new ones that are lower in calories.