Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-398. I am also pleased that the bill may be going to committee. That is the proper place for the bill to be dealt with.
I must say that I had not really looked at the bill. I do not sit on the health committee. However, as I look at the bill I like what I see. I am pleased that the bill may end up at the health committee and be reported back by the end of September.
As I read the bill, its objectives include the requirement that large chain restaurants, and we are not talking about mom and pop restaurants as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands would have listeners believe, post the number of calories on menu items, together with the saturated and trans fats and sodium contents. In addition, all fresh meat, poultry and seafood would need to be disclosed with full nutritional information. As I further read the bill, it seems to me that with the federal government database available this would be relatively easy for restaurants to include on their menus.
With regard to prepackaged items, multi-ingredient foods would show the percentage by weight of key ingredients, especially with specific relevance to health added items, such as sugars, fruits and vegetables.
A lot of money is being expended in this country, particularly by provinces, to ensure that we have a healthy population. A poor diet contributes significantly to the costs of maintaining good health. The estimates are in the magnitude of $5 billion or $6 billion a year in additional health spending. Unchecked it will result in higher drug costs, higher rates of obesity, diabetes and the like.
The Auditor General has looked at preventive health activities and estimated that, depending on the item, it is somewhere between six and 45 times more effective to deal with health problems before they become problems, to deal with them in a preventive way rather than after the fact. That is why a number of years ago provinces such as Saskatchewan incorporated wellness programs, to try and deal with the rising costs of health care.
Twenty-five thousand deaths annually are related to diet related disease in Canada, including cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes. It is predicted that a new mandatory nutritional label would reduce health care costs and reduce premature deaths and disabilities. That would be a significant return to the economy and that ought to be of concern to members, including the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I listened with some interest when the member was speaking about going upstairs to the parliamentary restaurant. It is nice that members of the Conservative Party are now taking advantage of the parliamentary restaurant because when they were members of the reform party of course they would not do that. The restaurant does have heart healthy choices, but what does that mean? We do not know what necessarily that entails.
It was interesting for me to read the background material to this bill and to note the difference between the amount of saturated fat in a three ounce top sirloin steak versus a shoulder pork blade steak. The fact is there is four times as much saturated fat in the latter than in the former.
Those are things the average consumer would not be aware of, such as the fact that a small McDonald's milkshake has four times as many calories as a fruit or vegetable shake. These are things that perhaps would make a difference to people when ordering--