Studies show that sodium information on menus could reduce sodium intake by as much as 900 mg.

Health board’s proposed sodium labelling stirs opposition

Listing salt content on menus could confuse consumers, restaurant groups say

Some groups in the hospitality field are opposing a proposal by the Toronto Board of Health to post sodium information on menus.

Adding information beyond calorie counts may result in confusion, says James Rilett, Vice President of Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“Studies done by the Ministry of Health show introducing multiple nutritional values only serves to confuse consumers,” he said. “Let’s get calorie posting right before we expand the program [to show sodium information].”

Last week, the Toronto Board of Health asked the Ontario Ministry of Health to modify the proposed Healthy Menu Choices Act to include sodium information on restaurant menus. As originally proposed, the act would include only calorie information.

The move was also opposed by the Ontario Restaurant Hotel  and Motel Association in a recent letter to the board last week.

However, at least one study has found that sodium information labelling could dramatically reduce intake.

“Research showed that for those who use the information, sodium (intake) at restaurants could decrease by 900 mg,” says Mary Scourboutakos, a PhD student at the University of Toronto who has done research on sodium content in fast food.

According to Health Canada, the recommended daily sodium intake is 1,000–1,500 mg. However, the average Canadian consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium a day.

The act would affect restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and any food service premise with 20 or more locations that operate under the same name, though the board is hoping to persuade the ministry to lower that number to 10.

It is also urging the province to invest resources in tracking how menu changes will impact consumer behaviour. The board is also suggesting the ministry formally adopt Toronto Public Health’s Savvy Diner campaign. The campaign has been advocating for calorie and sodium labelling since June 2013.

The Ministry of Health has not commented on the board’s request.