Thursday, May 28, 2009

Help get nutritional information into the Ottawa Citizen!

Last week I blogged about how a number of weeks ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the Citizen asking that the Citizen publish nutritional information for its Food Section recipes. I included in my letter the calorie, sodium, fat and sugar counts for that week's recipes and pointed out that it took me all of 5 minutes to make the calculations. The letter never got published and so last week I calculated all the calories and asked readers to contact Ron Eade, the Citizen's Food Editor.

Ron kindly wrote me back and here's what he had to say,

"Dear Dr. Freedhoff,

We have in the past received requests for nutritional information in the Food section recipes, but we do not have the software to input the ingredient list to obtain this data. While we have in the past included nutritional information in recipes where it is provided by the originating source, sadly, most of our recipes from chefs, from the wire service(s), and books we consult do not include this. If it is a matter of buying the software, that is a decision for management at the Citizen who have budgetary authority.

Kind regards to you and your readers,

Ron Eade, Food editor
I wrote Ron back and explained that the "budget" required for such a move would be either $0.00 (as there are sufficient tools online that freely help with calculations like Sparkpeople's recipe calculator and Calorie King if Sparkpeople's lacking an ingredient) or as low as $15.99 (the cost of Mastercook 9.0, the program I use at home to calculate calories). I then suggested that it would take a lucky intern all of 20 minutes maximum weekly to make the calculations.

So who has budgetary authority for a less than $20 purchase? According to Ron the person we should be writing to is Ms. Wendy Warburton.

Therefore if you're an Ottawa Citizen reader (or even if you're not), and you'd like to see calories, fat, sugars and sodium published alongside Citizen recipes please take a moment of time to email Wendy Warburton and let her know.

Remember, the information would not be meant for judgement but rather knowledge and it would benefit the tens of thousands of Citizen readers who may be dealing with obesity, heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes - all diseases where nutritional information can be very useful.

If you're a local blogger or Twitter'er please repost this blog. If you're not into blogging and such, just email this to your friends. Perhaps we can make enough noise to affect change for as you may recall, the Citizen's editorial board in their piece on posting calories on menus suggested that legislation isn't necessary to get restaurants to post calories but rather than consumer demand would do the trick. Please consumers - make some demands.

Here are this week's recipes:

Grilled Lamb with Summer Salad and Minted Couscous
(for entire recipe) 6888 calories, 209g saturated fat, 1474mg sodium, 216 total carbs - 72% of calories come from fat

Asparagus Wrapped in Pancetta with Citronette
(per serving assuming 1 teaspoon total salt) 152 calories, 2g saturated fat, 888mg sodium, 7g total carbs

Grilled Asparagus with Garlic
(per serving) 106 calories, 1g saturated fat, 354mg sodium, 3g total carbs - that's a lot of sodium for a small side dish

Flank Steak Fajita
(for entire recipe) 2824 calories, 18 grams sat fat, 4042mg sodium, 389g total carbs

Rhubarb Custard Bars
(per bar) 137 calories, 3g saturated fat, 84mg sodium, 21.5g total carbs

Bacon and Olive Apertif Cake
(per entire cake assuming 1/4 teaspoon salt) 2,153 calories, 43g saturated fat, 3,033mg sodium, 135g total carbs

Chef Andrew's Fig Anise Crackers
(per entire recipe) 4,940 calories, 25g saturated fat, 30,272mg sodium (GOOD LORD!), 739g total carbs.

Chef Andrew's Fig and Ginger Jam
(per entire recipe) 991 calories, no fat, 12mg sodium, 254g total carbs

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. It took roughly 3 minutes per recipe]