Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-398. The first thing I would like to do is congratulate the member for Scarborough Southwest for getting his bill to this stage. I know what it is like. My Bill C-212 on user fees passed on Friday. It took a couple of years and it was a long and bumpy road. I know what he is going through and I congratulate him for taking this initiative.
The bill has some very laudable objectives. For Canadians to understand better what they are eating, what is in the food they are eating is something we should strive for. I think I can support sending the bill to the health committee as subject matter for study, but the problems that I see with the bill are practical in nature. Implementing the bill will cause a lot of difficulties for restaurant owners and I am not sure that at the end of the day Canadian customers will get what they want either.
The food and restaurant industry is a major employer across Canada. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about tens of thousands, but in fact it was a year ago that we reached the over one million threshold of Canadians who work in the food and restaurant industry, many of them young people. Many of them create a lot of economic activity in Canada.
My riding of Etobicoke North is near the airport. It is near the major intersections of the 401 and the 427. There are many restaurants and hotels and they are concerned about this bill.
I would like to read some comments from various restaurateurs who have written to me to highlight some of their concerns. One is the issue around customization. Customization means customers looking at the menu and saying instead of this, they would like that. That creates some very real challenges for restaurateurs.
Mr. Adrian Whitfield of Jack Astor's Bar and Grill in Etobicoke said:
If I have to undertake a detailed analysis of every item on my menu, you will be forcing me to reduce the number of items I carry and to stop customizing meals to meet individual preferences.
I have a letter stating that Pizza Pizza makes its pizzas to the individual specifications of its customers. Variations on a product are endless. For example, a very basic pizza such as pepperoni can be changed as follows: regular crust, thin crust, thick crust, regular sauce, easy on the sauce, extra sauce, regular cheese, extra cheese, double cheese, no cheese, light on the cheese, cheese on one half only, regular pepperoni, double pepperoni, pepperoni on one half only. Some of our customers will enhance their pepperoni pizza with olive oil and oregano. Each of these variations impacts the calorie, salt and fat content. Those are the variations on a single topping pizza. Pizza Pizza states that the average number of toppings is three, so that is a problem it sees with respect to customization.
Here is another concern raised by ABC Country Restaurants, a chain located in British Columbia:
Here is one breakfast selection: bacon and eggs, with toast or pancakes? Will that be multi-grain, white or rye toast? No butter? Strawberry preserves or peanut butter and honey? Pancakes with syrup and butter? Instead of hash browns would you like to substitute fresh fruit? There are five different fresh fruits in our fruit bowl. It changes seasonally. Today we have grapes, bananas, strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe. Tomorrow it may be honeydew, grapefruit and oranges with bananas and strawberries.
I am getting hungry just talking about it. It goes on, “I forgot to ask about the eggs. Fried, boiled or poached? One egg instead of two? No problem”. These all affect the calorie count and other aspects.
Another letter is from Cara OPerations Limited, a big operation across Canada located in Mississauga. Mr. Barlow, whom I know very well, said:
We serve one million guests per week thru our 350 restaurants utilizing the talents of more than 8000 teammates. Our menu offers many choices from burgers and chicken to salads and soft drinks including milk and fruit-based beverages.
It has Harvey's as part of its operation. It has offered customers all these various side orders. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts also have a problem with the customization. This is the big hotel chain across Canada, and indeed around the world. It wrote:
How often do your customers order off the menu or customize their orders?
In our experience 15% of our clients will order something that is not on our menus, especially with the loyal clientele we have who feel very comfortable ordering whatever they like. For example, salads with the addition of seafood or chicken. Choosing a different style of fish than the menu, herb butter sauce, thermidor glaze, etc. We get requests for vegetarian, no lacto, no garlic, no oils. We also get requests for special meat dishes with additions of salsa or chutneys to replace sauces.
All these changes have an impact on what is disclosed on the menu or the calorie intake of these various factors.
Ho-Lee-Chow, in the Danforth, is a big Chinese food restaurant. Mr. Garner wrote:
We currently have 129 different items on our menu, not counting combos. To add this information for each item would double the size of our menu. As we specialize in home delivery, our menu is also our direct mail vehicle. We produce some four million menus a year and mail them out. The size increase required will significantly increase both production and mailing costs.
That has to do with the size of the menu. That is another issue. The Spectra Group of Great Restaurants said:
All menu items would have to be analyzed by outside labs for accurate nutritional information. We have multiple concepts and each concept would have no fewer than 100 menu items that would need to be analyzed. Most labs now charge anywhere between $600 to $1,000 per item to do a thorough nutritional analysis. Getting set up initially would be an astronomical cost.
The Bay said:
[It would have to] source and hire a qualified professional dietician to analyze approximately 1,200 menu items to start, and on a continuous basis new items.
Van Houtte says:
Not all the information is available, and obtaining it would cost our small and medium businesses a fortune.
St. Hubert also had some concerns.
Jean-Pierre Léger said:
In fact, providing mandatory printed nutrition information is nonsensical in the restaurant business. No restaurateur could bear the costs of it, or the time it would take. There are too many uncontrollable variables.
These are household names. We all know about Dairy Queen as well. Doug White from Dairy Queen wrote:
As a grassroots, community-based company, we help fund many adult and children's recreational programs. We want to be part of the solution and we believe there is a need to create avenues for people to expend energy...Bill C-398 does not address this issue in totality.
Sylvie Paradis, of la Cage aux sports, wrote:
Although I do not have exact figures, the cost would certainly be very high. Outside laboratories would have to be used, as well as specialized consultants. In addition, the time required for this extra task would raise prices considerably.
McDonald's is expressing some concern about space on the menu board, as well as The Keg. These are serious business people employing a lot of Canadians. They are talking about regional differences of supply. How do they deal with that on their unified national menu? New York Fries has some concerns as well as Dixie Lee and White Spot Restaurants. I could go on.
I respect the member's objective here, but there are some very serious practical issues. Perhaps the subject matter can be reviewed at the health committee. It is important for Canadians to know what they are eating, but we have to arrive at a practical solution to this, not put something in place that is going to cost a lot of Canadians their jobs.