Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good lord! British Columbia government actively encouraging eating out!

Oy and vey.

It's running under the banner of "Healthy Families BC", a British Columbia based public health initiative to improve provincial health, and it's called, "Informed Dining".

Here's its headline,

"Eating out has become an enjoyable part of our everyday lives. You can choose to dine in style over a leisurely meal at a host of restaurants or order a take-away meal to eat in the comfort of your own home. You may pick up a quick bite at your local coffee shop or hospital cafeteria when visiting loved ones in a health-care facility."
Yes, hurray for eating out! It's wonderful. No one needs to cook any more. Throw out your pots and pans! Lose your bowls!

Wait. What? There's a downside?

Oh, the quality of the foods you, "enjoyably eat out as part of your everyday lives" might not be as high? And what? No. I don't believe it. There are known to be enormous piles of calories in virtually all restaurant foods?

Hmmmm, what to do, what to do.

Encourage home cooking? Set up programs with school kitchens to teach healthy meal preparation? Work on improved access to farmers' markets? Consider changing the way fresh produce is subsidized and taxed? Suggest that perhaps we should try to eat out less?

Nope, not according to the public health folks working for the province of British Columbia.

They think that instead we should look for that logo up above when we "enjoyably eat out as part of our everyday lives."

So what will that logo mean to us? Healthy, low calorie meals?


What it means is that if we ask for nutritional information, we'll be given a separate pamphlet that'll enable us to look at how nutritionally awful everything on the menu is before we order it.


What else will you get?

These not even remotely wordy, confusing or busy anchoring statement charts:

So will people use the information?

Well I'm certain the restaurant industry will use the information. They'll use it to fight any and every proposed mandatory menu board labeling legislation by using the Informed Dining program to prove they're already proactively part of the solution and are doing their part.

And consumers?

Well one study which I blogged about once upon a time found that of 4,311 folks who frequented restaurants with available calorie information that wasn't actually posted on the menus themselves, a grand total of 6 people utilized it.

You know I'm not sure there's a more straightforward and important healthy eating message than reduce your meals out, and here's British Columbia not only dropping the ball on that message, but also explicitly giving eating out their official blessing, while simultaneously empowering the food industry with politically positive PR.

You know it's entirely true that, "Eating out has become an enjoyable part of our everyday lives" and I'd venture that until that changes, healthier is not what we're going to grow.

Oy and vey indeed.

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  1. The purpose of food is nutrition, not entertainment. The obese use food as entertainment. As a ex-obese, I will ignore BC governments advise, for they are all about turning dollars.
    No government has we, the citizens, best interest at heart now, they go to far. We trade freedom for a bit of safety, but the government has gone beyond reasonable.
    Ignoring government is the norm now, not the rule.

  2. Anonymous1:08 pm

    Although eating out is not the best solution to healthy eating, the reality is that most Canadians (and BC included) will eat out some of the time. As part of a comprehensive strategy, it is important to give some guidance on what to do when eating out. This program might not be the perfect solution but certainly a step in the right direction of giving the nutrition information that is currently lacking.

  3. No it's not.

    It's a step backward.

    It's a step that will provide a health halo to participating restaurants, that may lull consumers into thinking they're choosing wisely.

    It's a step that the restaurant association will use to fight legislation calling for posted menu board calories.

    It's a step that fails to teach the very real truth that eating out is something that should be actively minimized.

    It's a mis-step.

  4. Anonymous1:49 pm

    Hey Anonymous,

    If the reality was the most Canadians smoked would you think guiding people to lighter or smaller cigarettes would be a good plan?

  5. J Slater2:21 pm

    I did a study where I interviewed employed mothers about family food preparation. They were unanimous in wanting more family meals at home (but struggled because of busy schedules). None of them viewed the hurried, daily meals in restaurants as "enjoyable". They thought the food was generally sub-standard, but filled the meal "gap".

  6. BC Nancy3:02 pm

    I suspect there is actually a method to this madness. In July 2010 BC introduced the HST (which, after a referendum, will be rescinded) that taxed restaurant meals in a way they hadn't been taxed before. The industry was, naturally, very unhappy, saying they will lose customers and have to lay off staff or even go out of business. This campaign to encourage eating out may be a back door attempt to appease them.

  7. Anonymous12:08 pm

    Food is not the same as smoking. No one needs tobacco. Everyone needs food, which is where it gets complicated. Not everyone is able to make home cooked meals all the time (even despite the best intentions, myself included). At times you may need to get food from sources outside the home.

    But to draw parallel from tobacco - Of course we want tobacco companies to stop making this harmful substance available. But it takes a bit of time to turn the boat around. What is there to do in the "in-between" time?