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Health board urging province to implement mandatory sodium listing at restaurants

The Toronto Board of Health met on Monday to discuss how to push the province forward with mandating changes to restaurant menus to list sodium content.

Last year the board approved mandatory menu labelling following a staff report by Toronto’s chief medical officer of health. The proposed bylaw would force restaurant chains to post calories and sodium counts on their menus and affects chains with 10 or more restaurants or have at least $10 million in annual sales.

Dr. David McKeown said if people see the calorie and salt content of restaurant meals, they are more likely to opt for healthier choices.

“We think it’s about time that people in Toronto and Ontario had a chance to know what they’re eating when they go to a restaurant,” McKeown told CityNews at the time.

“Canadians on average consume about twice as much sodium as they really need and as a result we have quite high rates of high blood pressure, hypertension and of course we all know that we’re facing a real problem of growing obesity levels in the population.”

The maximum daily intake of sodium for a person between the age of 14 to 50 is 2,300 milligrams – the equivalent of a teaspoon of table salt.

However, it’s actually recommended that a person only take in 1,500 milligrams a day.

In November the Ontario government reintroduced the Healthy Menu Choices Act 2014, which promised to bring forward legislation that required restaurants to display nutritional information of their standard food items.

However, the public health board noted that the specific focus of the act was to publish the calorie content of both food and beverages – including alcohol and did not include the requirement to post sodium values. The board also raised concerns over the application of the legislation applying to food service chains with 20 or more locations nationwide.

The province is set to introduce the legislation in the spring.