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Private member's bill would require food chains to post calories in Ontario

A large chocolate milkshake from McDonalds is 1,160 calories - add fries, and that number creeps up to 1,720. Get your caffeine fix from a 16-ounce white chocolate mocha latte from Starbucks, and you'll consume 400 calories.

New Democratic Party MPP France Gélinas wants Ontario to be the first province in Canada to require chain restaurants to display how many calories are in the food and beverages on their menus.

On Wednesday, Ms. Gélinas introduced a private member's bill requiring chain restaurants with at least five locations and $5-million in annual revenue to post calorie counts beside the price of each menu item, whether food or drink.

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MPPs rarely succeed in getting private member's bills passed into law. But this could be among the rare exceptions.

Ontario Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best told reporters on Wednesday that the Liberal government is already looking into introducing similar legislation. "It's certainly something that we believe there is some merit in," Ms. Best said.

In 2008, New York City became the first jurisdiction in the United States to compel fast-food chains to disclose calories on their menus. Dozens of other jurisdictions have followed its lead, and March's U.S. health-care reform bill includes calorie-labelling rules.

Under the bill introduced by Ms. Gélinas, restaurants that don't comply would be fined $500 a day for a first offence and $5,000 a day for a second violation.

John Lettieri, the owner of Hero Certified Burgers, a chain that would fall within the bill's grasp, called the idea "excessive."

"It's crazy, it's ridiculous. That's a tough thing to get all in place, and costly," he said, noting that menu-boards in all 18 locations would have to be replaced.

Ron Reaman, vice-president of federal government affairs for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, described the bill as "wrong-headed." The CRFA's own voluntary nutrition information program has restaurants publish a variety of nutritional indicators on their own websites. "[Calories] frankly, don't tell the whole picture," Mr. Reaman said. "Diet soda has less calories than a glass of milk, but is that a better food choice?"

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But Matthew Corrin, CEO of Freshii, a chain of salad bars that would also be affected by the law, disagrees. Freshii already advertises a calorie-counting iPhone app. "I think knowledge is power," said Mr. Corrin.

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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