Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content



If you knew it would take 40 minutes of running to burn off this cinnamon roll, would you eat it?


Calorie-counting isn’t doing enough to prevent obesity in Britain, a major U.K. health-care charity says – so they’re proposing to give people exercise guides on their food labels instead.

The Royal Society for Public Health is advocating for “activity equivalent labelling,” which would label food products with guidelines showing how much exercise would be required to burn off the calories gained by eating those products. An iced cinnamon roll, for instance, is about 420 calories, which would equal 40 minutes of running or an hour and 17 minutes of walking.


Royal Society chief executive Shirley Cramer renewed the group’s push for new labelling rules in a column in Wednesday’s British Medical Journal, published ahead of today’s UN-designated World Health Day.

We won’t reduce obesity by focusing on diet or physical activity alone. People need to create a balanced relationship between the calories they consume and the calories they expend.

Shirley Cramer


Canada’s federal government pledged to revamp food labels in the 2013 Speech from the Throne. Last June, Health Canada proposed adding what percentage of a person’s daily recommended amount of sugar is contained in a product and grouping all sugars together on the ingredient list.

Proponents of food-label overhauls in Canada have suggested more can be done to make labels simpler to understand. Earlier this week at a presentation to the Toronto Board of Trade, Indigo CEO Heather Reisman – who is executive producer of a 2014 documentary, Fed Up, that targets the sugar industry – suggested labelling sugar in teaspoons rather than grams would be more understandable. “You have to be a chemist to understand how much sugar is in the product,” she said.

The British government has made obesity prevention and public health a major priority. Last month’s budget pledged to introduce a tax on sugary beverages in 2018, the proceeds for which would pay for sports-in-schools initiatives. A Canadian Senate committee proposed a similar tax last month, as well as new restrictions on food advertising aimed at children.

With a report from The Canadian Press


Nutrition Basics: How to keep your sweet tooth under control


Label lessons: Tips to help you shop for healthier foods Deciphering the nutrition facts, the ingredient list and the nutrient claims can help you make healthier food choices for you and your family. Leslie Beck demystifies the process.
The most effective way to curb soft-drink consumption? Shame, not taxes In Britain, sugary soft drinks are joining beer, wine and gasoline in the sin bin, subject to a special tax because we love them too much for our own good. Carl Mortished questions whether that's really the best approach. (For subscribers)

Report Typo/Error

Next story