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Moving Forward On Menu Labelling

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Moving Forward On Menu Labelling

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Ontario is reintroducing legislation that, if passed, will require large chain food service premises, like fast food restaurants, to post calories on menus to help Ontarians to make well-informed choices of what they eat and feed their children. The Making Healthier Choices Act, 2014, if passed, will:

  • Require calories for standard food and beverage items, including alcohol, to be posted on menus and menu boards in restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and other food service premises with 20 or more locations in Ontario.
  • Require food service operators to post contextual information that would help to educate patrons about their daily caloric requirements. 
  • Authorize public health inspectors to enforce menu labelling requirements.

The proposed menu labelling legislation is a key component of the Healthy Kids Strategy, which responds to the Healthy Kids Panel's recommendations for reducing childhood obesity.

Ontario's Healthy Kids Strategy

In May 2012, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care assembled a group of experts to serve on its Healthy Kids Panel and provide advice on how to achieve the government's goal of reducing childhood obesity.

In response to the panel's recommendations, the government created Ontario's Healthy Kids Strategy, which looks at the whole child through healthy child and youth development. 

The strategy has four key principles:

  1. Focus on healthy kids: Strategies that target protective and risk factors that affect healthy weights.
  2. Focus on positive health messages: Engage and motivate families to develop healthy lifestyle habits.
  3. Recognize that healthy kids live in healthy families, schools and communities: Strategies will focus not just on children but on parents and the broader community.
  4. Support health equity: Support population level interventions and interventions tailored to reach vulnerable populations most at risk.

The Healthy Kids Strategy is focused on three pillars:

  • Healthy Start - supporting preconception health, healthy pregnancy and early years to build the foundation for healthy childhood and beyond.
  • Healthy Food - initiatives to promote healthy eating, achieving healthy weights and healthy childhood development.
  • Healthy Active Communities - building healthy environments for kids in their communities.

Ontario has implemented recommendations from the Healthy Kids Panel for each pillar of the strategy:

Healthy Start 

To help babies get the best start in life, Ontario is helping families by providing 24 hour / 7 days a week telephone access to expert support for mothers who are breastfeeding.

Ontario is supporting Ontario's hospitals and community health care organizations with training, tools, guidance and resources to help them achieve the World Health Organization's Baby-Friendly Initiative designation and adopt clinical best practices in infant feeding.

Ontario is also funding the development and implementation of new targeted, community-based supports for mothers in population groups that have lower rates of breastfeeding, such as women having their first baby, Aboriginal women and women who plan to return to work within six months, among others.

Work is underway to develop evidence-informed pre-natal educational information to promote healthy pregnancies, babies, and positive parenting.

Healthy Food

Ontario is committed to make it easier for families to make informed and healthier food choices.  The Making Healthier Choices Act, if passed, will make Ontario the first province to require food service premises to post calories on menus.

The ministry has also consulted with industry and health sector leaders on how to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages aimed at kids to inform next steps.

Through the Healthy Kids Strategy, the government increased support for Ontario's Student Nutrition Program by $3 million. As part of this investment, more than 200 new breakfast programs are being created over two years so that more children and youth in higher needs communities, including some First Nations will benefit from Ontario's Student Nutrition Program. 

The government also supports the Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program.  Delivered in partnership with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and local Public Health Units, the program provides no-cost servings of fresh fruit and vegetables to school-aged children in northern and remote communities.  Over 37,000 children in the Porcupine, Algoma and Sudbury districts benefit from this program, of whom approximately 6,600 are of Aboriginal (First Nations) descent.

Healthy Active Communities

Ontario is offering communities resources to help children eat better and get more active through the Healthy Kids Community Challenge

The Challenge is providing 45 participating communities with funding, training and other resources over four years to implement community programs and activities. Local programs would focus on healthy eating, physical activity and adequate sleep for children and youth. 

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