Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Informed dining

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Will Canadians knowingly order an appetizer, meal and dessert at a restaurant if they know it adds up to 5,000 calories, 30 grams of saturated fat, 2,000 milligrams of salt and 40 grams of sugar?

Well, a diverse group of 17 Canadian restaurant companies is about to find out under a new program that will make available the nutritional content of their menus.

They are voluntarily implementing the so-called Informed Dining program later this year following demands from consumers who want to know what they are eating. The federal government and some provinces threatened to make full disclosure mandatory if the industry didn't respond.

Under a program developed in B.C. in collaboration with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and approved by industry groups, the participating chains have agreed to provide the calorie count and up to 13 core nutrients.

They have a choice of putting the information on their menus, websites or in a brochure.

Some consumer advocates have complained the information will be useless if it isn't directly on the menus, but it will be enough if the information is available in a brochure on request. A website alone isn't adequate if it requires diners to check the menu on their home computers.

Some restaurants have already made nutritional information available in an easy format, but most major chains have been reluctant to provide the data at the table.

The fat or salt content in a particular meal may have no impact on the choices of occasional diners, but it could affect those who eat out regularly or who have health problems.

Some restaurants may alter their cooking habits, but others will continue to offer the fare that made them successful. Either way, consumers should have the ability to make informed choices, regardless if it's at the grocery store or in a high-fat restaurant.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2014 A8

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