S2E5: Kelly Harris on Calorie Labelling and Defining How we Dine / by Glen Jameson

The Healthy Menu Choices Act is now in effect. On this episode we discuss mandatory calorie labelling in Ontario. In a lot of ways, this is a great companion piece to Catherine Mah’s episode earlier this season. Catherine is an incredible advocate for municipalities as effective jurisdictions to enact change in how we approach public health problems. Calorie labelling is an example of this. In the US, it was implemented first in cities, then states, and now it's going to be across the US and administered by the Food and Drug Administration on May 5, 2017.

But we really haven't had a Canadian rogue public health municipality in the same way as the US has NYC or Berkeley or Philadelphia to push these issues along so, eventually in 2015, Ontario decided to do it provincially. But we didn’t do that in an original manner. In a lot of ways, the Ontario Healthy Menu Choices Act is simply copycat legislation. Sure, It has been modded to fit the Ontarian legal context, but have no doubt: it’s ripped from our neighbours.

Kelly Harris is a partner at Miller Thomson LLP and a lawyer who advises on advertising, marketing, and competition law issues. She caught an early wave of calls from clients who wanted to meet their regulatory obligations under this new act. But it's a tough job when you're presented with a set of regulations just months before they're put in motion. Thus, I wanted to probe the legislation alongside Kelly to figure out whether the legislation drafters did a thorough job in contemplating all of the ways in which Ontarians purchase ready to eat food, or define a grocer, or think of a menu.

We have a lot of questions and a lot of remarks for this framework, which goes beyond the standard "Uh Oh Get Ready Calorie Labelling is Coming to Ontario ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" articles that you’ve no doubt seen over the past year. And we’ve tried to explore the oddities of how strange an exercise it is to govern your menus and advertisements and drive thrus in this province.