Sunday, December 03, 2006

10 Reasons to Support Tom Wappel’s Bill C-283

Centre for Science in the Public Interest’s

10 Reasons to Support Tom Wappel’s Bill C-283 on September 18, 2006
Summary of Bill C-283, An Act to Amend the Food and Drugs Act (food labelling):

• Restaurant menus: Requires large chain-restaurants to post the number of calories in standard menu items beside the corresponding price on fast food restaurant menu boards and, at table service restaurants (where more spacious menus are used), also the amount of sodium, and the sum of saturated plus trans fat per serving. Single restaurants, small chains and non-standard menu items are exempt.

• Fresh meat labels: Requires that all labels of fresh meat, poultry and seafood (i.e., not just processed meats) sold in large retail stores disclose nutrition facts required for most other foods by regulations promulgated in December 2002.

• Ingredient labelling on packages of manufactured foods: Requires that pre-packaged, multi-ingredient foods show the percentage-by-weight of key ingredients (especially ones relevant to health, e.g., added sugars, fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains).

1. It ensures practical health information is available to consumers. Bill C-283 will ensure that life-saving information is on food labels and menus where Canadians can effectively use it to choose more healthful foods.

2. These label/menu reforms have impressive support from civil society and experts. The measures advocated in Bill C-283 are supported by more than two dozen health and citizens groups collectively representing more than 2 million Canadians.1

One or more of the three measures proposed in Bill C-283 is echoed in seven Canadian and US expert reports.2

3. Restaurants, meat packers and food processors have ignored or resisted calls for objective
health information on labels and menus.

● The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association’s voluntary nutrition information program does not encourage chains to furnish nutrition information on menus (where it can be effectively used by consumers) but, instead, comparatively useless “fine-print” disclosures on web-sites, brochures and the bottoms of tray liners (e.g., at McDonalds) where it is barely visible to consumers, especially prior to purchase; only Extreme Pita, Subway and White Spot chains voluntarily provide some nutrition facts on menus.

● Meat packers won an exemption from the December 2002 nutrition labelling regulations by pleading inability to develop accurate nutrition information for various cuts and species of meat until 2005; Bill C-283 would provide them until 2009 to complete their calculations. Yet, e.g., the Beef Information Centre website, now updated to 2004, indicates that trimmed lean T-bone has four times as much saturated fat as eye of round3 -- a fact not evident from visual inspection of meat.

● Some manufacturers refuse to provide quantitative ingredient information they obviously possess, even at the request of consumers.

4. Consumers grossly underestimate fat, salt and caloric content of restaurant foods and over-estimate the calorie-burning potential of exercise. A study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that saturated fat and calorie content of typical restaurant foods are actually double, and sodium is quadruple what consumers estimate, and providing accurate information significantly influenced consumers’ food choices.4 Also, e.g., an adult would have to run for two hours to burn the calories in a Quarter Pounder with cheese Extra Value Meal (i.e., with medium fries and a Coke).5

5. Canadian law is inadequate to prevent consumer deception, even about the amounts of ingredients with important health implications. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: “In principle, any emphasis regarding the presence of an ingredient…should be accompanied by a statement regarding the amount of that ingredient…present in the food.” A major World Health Organization expert report concluded that fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes; fruits and vegetables also help reduce the risk hypertension and of certain forms of cancer.6 But, without rules like those proposed in Bill C-283, the food industry markets products like strawberry-kiwi juice made mostly from apple and grape juices (Dole), whole grain crackers made with mostly refined flour (Christie), and vegetable soup whose first ingredient is beef broth (Campbell). And, unbeknownst to many Canadians, e.g., fruit jam with pectin can have as little as 27% fruit7, there is no minimum vegetable content for vegetarian lasagne or tomato sauce, and “fruit drinks/punch” may contain virtually no real juice.8

6. Providing Bill C-283 information will involve trivial costs. Manufacturers obviously know the percentage-by-weight of ingredients used to make their processed foods. Nearly all large chain restaurants already have (or can readily calculate) nutrition information for their standardized menu items; most provide it on demand or on web-sites anyway. And nutritional profiles of meat, poultry and seafood are already provided on some meat industry web-sites. Menus and labels of affected products can be modified during the next three years while replenishing label stocks or updating menus. According to our estimates, analytical costs, where necessary, would be less than 1/10th of 1% of unit retail costs, even in the worst case scenario.

7. Providing nutrition information is not expensive, withholding it is. Every year, diet-related cases of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer cost the Canadian economy $6.6 billion9 and lead to tens of thousands of premature deaths. Four diet-related risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, overweight, and low fruit/vegetable intake) cause a reduction of healthy life expectancy by nearly five years.10 “Nutrition Facts” now required on most prepackaged foods (even without fresh, un-ground meat) are predicted to prompt dietary changes yielding $5 billion in cumulative economic benefits (i.e., reduced health care costs and
increased productivity) during the next two decades – recouping approx. 5% of the costs of diet-related disease and 20 times the costs of changing labels. Bill C-283 measures can amplify those benefits with even cheaper implementation costs.

8. There is space on labels and menus to provide vital health information. Persistent suggestions by food industry associations that there is insufficient space to furnish important health information on labels and menus is false, on its face.

9. Quantitative ingredient information is not protected by food companies’ intellectual property rights. Food companies have never demonstrated any legal basis (credible or otherwise) for their claim to a right to conceal information about the amounts of ingredients they use in foods intended for human consumption. In fact, some form of quantitative ingredient declaration is already required by law on food labels throughout the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Thailand.

10. Consumers are entitled to know what is in our food and our children are entitled to a healthcare system not overburdened by preventable illness. Canadians are entitled to know what’s in our food especially when it affects our health. As baby boomers age, healthcare demands will become increasingly difficult for their working children and grandchildren to sustain. Boomers should support Bill C-283 to ensure they can make informed decisions about their own health.

1 These groups include: National Federation for Seniors and Pensioners, Community Nutritionists Council of British Columbia, L'Association des Diététistes au Québec,
Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, Canadian Women's Health Network, Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus, Canadian Society for Exercise
Physiology, Association of Ontario Health Centres, Canadian Paraplegic Association, Canadian Assn. for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity,
Centre for Health Promotion Studies (University of Alberta), Sport PEI, Eastern Health and Community Services Board (Clarenville, Newfoundland), DAWN Canada:
DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women's Network of Ontario, Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, Multicultural Health Brokers Coop,
Union des consommateurs, Toronto Food Policy Council, HEAL Network of Northern British Columbia, National Eating Disorder Information Centre, National Retired
Workers Advisory Council, Nutrition Services (Whitehorse Regional Hospital), Edmonton School Lunch Program, Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation, Palliser
Health Region (Alberta), Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Canadian Teachers' Federation, and Centre for Science in the Public Interest.

2 Raine, K, Overweight and Obesity in Canada: A Population Health Perspective, (Ottawa: Canadian Population Health Initiative of the Canadian Institute for Health
Information, 2004) which states, at 60: “Policy Option No. 9: Based upon extensive evidence generated from knowledge and experience with other health issues in Canada
(such as tobacco) and from other countries, apply promising practices for population-based policy change to promote healthy weights. Policies that could be considered

• Expand food and nutrition labelling to food-service operations, including fast food.”
National Academies Institute of Medicine, Industry Can Play a Role in Preventing Child Obesity: Fact Sheet (Washington: IOM, 2004) which recommends in part: “ Fast
food and full service restaurants should expand healthier meal, food, and beverage options (including children's meals) and provide calorie content and general nutrition
information at the point of purchase.
Dr. Sheela Basrur, Chief Medical Officer Of Health, 2004 Report Of The CMOH: Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives, (Toronto: CMOH, 2004) at 50 and 53 which
recommends, in part: “To create a national environment that promotes healthy weights, Health Canada should:…broaden mandatory nutrition labelling to: • cover fresh meat,
poultry and seafood (i.e., foods that were exempted from mandatory nutrition labelling rules finalized in January 2003)

• require large chain restaurants to disclose basic nutrition facts (e.g., calories) about the foods they serve... To help create an environment that promotes healthy weights, the food industry should:…Increase user-friendly food labelling on large chain restaurant menus and take-out/deli foods.”

Press release: “Report Card on Health - Heart and Stroke Foundation Warns Fat Is the New Tobacco” issued by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada setting out the
Foundation’s “Call to Action” which recommends, in part: “Improve nutritional labeling and information in quick serve restaurants. Statistics show that on any given day,
30% of kids living in North America visit a fast food restaurant. Their parents should have access to nutrition information on the overhead and table menus to help make
informed choices at the point of purchase.”

Irene Strychar, E.D., R.D., “Fighting Obesity: A Call to Arms” (2004) 95 Canadian Journal of Public Health 12-14 which recommended that: “Restaurants should provide
caloric and fat content of menu items.”
BC Healthy Living Alliance, “Regulatory and Economic Interventions” which recommends: “Advocate for the federal implementation of a standardized system of nutrition
information for products that includes all foods (not just packaged), including at point-of-purchase.”

H. Krueger and Assoc., Risk Factor Interventions: An Overview of Their Effectiveness, (Vancouver: CCS & BC Cancer Agency, February 2005) which concluded at 183:
“The most promising interventions to pursue in an initial obesity control campaign include: Increased attention to the environmental signals concerning diet and activity,
from the nutrition labelling of products and menu items to…”
3 See:
4 Scot Burton, et al., “Attacking the Obesity Epidemic: The Potential Health Benefits of Providing Nutrition Information in Restaurants,” American Journal of Public Health
2006;96(9): 1669-75.
5 Running and other heavy activities burn 450-720 calories per hour. See: Snyder CH, The Extraordinary Chemistry of Ordinary Things, 3d Ed. (Toronto: John Wiley, 1998)
at 398. The total calorie count for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal is: 1,090.
6 WHO, Report of the Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, (Tech. Rpt. 916), (Geneva: WHO, 2003).
7 Food and Drug Regulations, C.R.C., c. 870, section B.11.202.
8 Food and Drug Regulations, C.R.C., c. 870, section B.11.150.
9 In 2000, the Federal Government estimated that the economic burden of diet related disease was $5.3 billion due to heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. See:
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and Health Canada, Costs and Benefits of Nutrition Information (Ottawa: AAFC, May 2000) at 4. More recently, Health Canada
estimated that the total economic burden of diet-related disease was $6.6 billion. See: Diane Gorman, Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, “Speech at the Stakeholder
Meeting on the Review of Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating,” (Ottawa: Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, January 20, 2004) at 3. Available on the
Internet at: and see Health Canada (2003)
Economic Research Analysis Section, Policy Research Division, Strategic Policy Directorate, Population and Public Health Branch. Custom tabulations.
10 See: World Health Organization, The World Health Report 2002, (Geneva: WHO, 2002). Esp. see Table 4 in the annex which shows that loss of healthy life expectancy
due to all risk factors is 9.4 disability-adjusted-life-years averaged for Canadian men and women at and Table 10
which shows that, in developed countries, 50% of all-risk-attributable Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) were lost due to blood pressure, cholesterol, overweight, low
fruit and vegetable intake, and certain rare types of childhood and maternal undernutrition at 50% of 9.4 years is
4.7 years.
For more information contact:
Bill Jeffery, L.LB., National Coordinator, Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
Suite 4550, CTTC Bldg., 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5R1 Tel.: 613-244-7337 Fax: 613-244-1559
CSPI is a non-profit health advocacy organization specializing in nutrition and food safety issues with offices in Ottawa and Washington, D.C.
CSPI's Ottawa health advocacy is funded primarily by 100,000 subscribers to the Canadian edition of Nutrition Action Healthletter.
CSPI does not accept funding from industry or government.

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