Centre for Science in the Public Interest
  For the Record

For Immediate Release:
April 1, 2004

Related Links:
Media Advisory

Response to Industry criticisms

Dear Member of Parliament

Letter to Ministers Pettigrew and Bennett

Bill C-398 in Brief

See also, information concerning the most recent hour of debate:

For more information:
Bill Jeffery, CSPI's National Coordinator,
at (613) 244-7337.


Fast Food Calorie Disclosure Bill Advances;
Legislation Would Also Require Better Ingredient Lists on Food Labels and Nutrition Info for Fresh Meat.

OTTAWA (March 31, 2004): The House of Commons sent to the Health Committee private member’s legislation requiring fast food chains to disclose calorie information on menus. The bill would also require large full-service chain restaurants to disclose additional nutrition information on menus, food manufacturers to improve ingredient lists on processed food labels, and meat packers to put nutrition information on all fresh-meat labels. The Committee is required to report back to the House by September 30, 2004.

"Cabinet support to move this bill forward is welcome," stated Bill Jeffery, L.L.B. National Coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group based in Ottawa.

"C-398 promises to help reduce diet-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and obesity," said Jeffery. "If further deliberations on the bill are cut short by an early election call, we’ll be back at this again in the fall with broad support in the House or, hopefully, a government-sponsored proposal," he added.

Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (food labelling), sponsored by Liberal MP Tom Wappel, would require that, within two years of passage:

  • fast food chains post the number of calories in menu items beside prices on menu boards, and require full-service restaurant chains (where more spacious menus are provided) to also display the amounts of saturated fat plus trans fat, and sodium;
  • all fresh meat, poultry and seafood (not just ground, processed and frozen meat) sold in retail stores disclose full nutrition information (facts that are to be required for most other pre-packaged foods and meats by December 2005); and
  • pre-packaged, processed foods disclose the percentage-by-weight of main ingredients and others that are especially relevant to health such as added sugars, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

In addition to better disclosure of nutrition and ingredient information, CSPI recommends that

governments limit commercial advertising directed at children (especially for food), shift sales taxes from nutritious food items to junk foods, promote healthy eating and physical activity through school curriculum and mass media public service announcements, and fund preventative nutrition counselling services through Medicare.

"We hope that governments will include such measures as part of the 'Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy' now being negotiated by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers of health and will consider them at the First Ministers meeting on health care this summer," said Jeffery. The FPT Pan-Canadian Strategy has yet to yield any specific policy recommendations.

"The World Health Organization’s (WHO) draft ‘Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health’ recognizes that such measures are essential parts of a comprehensive public health program that can help combat diet-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and help reduce obesity. Canada has been a real champion of the WHO’s efforts to tackle diet-related disease and should now put those recommendations into action here at home," Jeffery said.

Diet-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis cost Canadian society $6.3 billion, and as many as 25,000 lives annually. Obesity is a risk factor in the leading causes of death in Canada. Bill C-398 builds on nutrition label regulations announced in January 2003 by Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan when she was responsible for the health portfolio. Those regulations are predicted to generate $5 billion in health care cost savings and productivity gains -- 20 times greater than costs of modifying labels. Bill C-398 is also supported by 29 health and citizens groups representing 2 million Canadians.

For more information, call: Bill Jeffery of CSPI at 613-244-7337. See CSPI's 2000 General Election party leaders’ survey at http://cspinet.org/canada/response1.html, the full text of Bill C-398 at http://www.parl.gc.ca/PDF/37/2/parlbus/chambus/house /bills/private/c398_1.pdf, and the transcript of Tuesday’s debate in the House of Commons at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/PDF/37/3/parlbus/chambus/ house/debates/han032-E.pdf

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a non-partisan, independent consumer health advocacy organization with offices in Ottawa and Washington, D.C. CSPI's Canadian advocacy efforts are supported by over 100,000 subscribers to the Canadian edition of its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept industry or government funding.

Bill C-398 is supported by 29 health and citizens groups collectively representing two million Canadians, including: National Fedn. for Seniors and Pensioners, Community Nutritionists Council of BC, L'Association des Diététistes au Québec, Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, Assn.of Ontario Health Centres, Canadian Paraplegic Assn., Canadian Women's Health Network, Canada's Assn. for the Fifty-Plus, Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, 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, Nfld.), DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women's Network Ontario, DAWN Canada: DisAbled Women's Network Canada, Canadian Dental Hygienists Assn., Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op, Union des consommateurs, Toronto Food Policy Council, HEAL Network of Northern British Columbia, National Eating Disorder Information Centre, Nat’l 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 CSPI.

CSPI Canada