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Attack on 'informed dining' is sour grapes

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Bill Jeffrey's op-ed attacking the informed-dining program recently launched in Manitoba is clearly sour grapes from an individual and organization that have touted a grossly oversimplified approach to nutrition information ('Informed dining' program cooked up to be useless, Oct. 4).

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest approach has been deemed ineffective by at least 10 studies published within the last three years in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The facts are straightforward. Informed dining was developed by the B.C. government in collaboration with industry and health groups with the intent to transparently provide restaurant guests with comprehensive nutrition information at or before the point of ordering.

Participating restaurants are required to display the informed dining logo and directional statement advising customers of the availability of nutrition information (calories and 13 core nutrients for all standard menu items). The program requires all nutrition information be provided in a standard format, and to be visible and easily accessible prior to ordering.

Jeffrey advocates focusing solely on calories and sodium. Informed dining does just that and more. Participants are required to highlight both calorie listings and sodium content for all standard menu items and serving sizes, accompanied by contextual information on daily requirements of each. This is in addition to providing information for the 13 core nutrients found on a Canadian Nutrition Facts table.

Any undertaking that solely focuses on calories and sodium at best delivers a mixed message to consumers and at worst misleads them. For example, a small serving of milk will show more calories than a diet soft drink; a yogurt with granola will show more calories than a bag of chips; a flaxseed bagel more calories than a doughnut.

It is also important to remember Manitobans have a wide array of dietary concerns and are interested in more than calories or sodium. Some are concerned with carbohydrates, some with protein, some with fat in general or specific fat types (e.g. saturated or trans fats).

Informed dining already has had 25 iconic Canadian restaurant brands commit to implement the program by 2014 -- brands that represent more than 50 per cent of all chain outlets and include operations in quick service, family, fast casual and fine dining. So, I would argue, Manitoba's Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau got it right.

 

Dwayne Marling is vice-president, Manitoba- Saskatchewan, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2013 A15

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