|March 6, 2014|
Previously published on March 3, 2014
If it becomes law, the Making Healthier Choices Act will impose new responsibilities on restaurant chains in the province of Ontario. On February 24, 2014, the Ontario government introduced legislation which, if passed, would require food service chains with 20 or more premises in Ontario to display the caloric information of their menu items. This includes bars, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores or other establishments which sell food or drinks prepared for immediate consumption either on the premises or elsewhere.
The legislation, the Making Healthier Choices Act (the “Act”), requires the display of the number of calories of every menu item offered with a standard portion. This information must be displayed on each menu where the item is listed and if the item is on display, on the label or tag identifying the item. The information must be specific to each variety, flavour and size offered.
Liability for breaching the Act extends to persons (including corporations) that own or operate a chain with more than twenty (20) premises in Ontario along with the directors and officers of corporations that own or operate such a chain. Penalties can be as high as $1,000 a day for individuals or $10,000 a day for corporations for second or subsequent offences. For the purposes of the Act, the definition of a person who owns or operates a regulated food service premise includes the actual business owner (i.e.: franchisee), but then expands on that to include a franchisor, a licensor, a person who owns or operates a regulated food service premise through a subsidiary, and a manager of a regulated food service premise, but does not include an employee who works at a regulated food service premise but is not a manager.
Franchisors in the food service industry should take note of the proposed legislation to determine whether the labelling requirements may be applicable to their business and be prepared to make a number of changes (if they have not already done so due to their presence in other jurisdictions with similar legislation).
It should be noted that the legislation is being tabled by Ontario’s minority Liberal Party government a few months before an expected provincial election, so whether the Act becomes law is far from certain. Initial responses to the legislation from the two opposition parties were mixed.