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CBC Marketplace shines a light on the health check logo

Posted Jul 26 2008 10:18am

I just saw an absolutely FANTASTIC CBC Marketplace show on the health check logo that we often see on foods here in Canada.

(If you don't usually watch CBC Marketplace, it's an expose and information oriented 30-minute show that airs once a week on CBC TV. I recently started watching them and they are excellent. If you are interested in high-quality information from a journalist who delves in to find out the real story on a wide range of topics, you'd probably really like this show. Go shows and times.)

This particular episode was investigating whether or not foods that are labelled with the health check logo (through the Heart and Stroke Foundation) actually measure up to being healthy. I don't usually pay much attention to the health check logo for a variety of reasons. Even so, I was surprised at what was revealed in this show: (1) A lot of products that actually are not healthy for you have this logo on them, (2) Once a product meets the health check criteria (criteria that can still be met by foods that are not anywhere near healthy for you) the company pays a fee to have the logo on it. Revenue per year from this logo program is about 2.5 million. So there are lots of products out there that are much healthier than those with the logo, but because they haven't paid for it, there's no logo. Which is fine, as long as you know and understand the whole story.

This episode also looked at a couple of grocery store chains in the US that have their own health labelling programs that have higher standards. Many of the foods that received a health check logo here in Canada scored very low or not at all in their systems. And these two systems can not be bought into; the stores are rating the foods whether the companies approve of it or not.

The two main criteria for the health check logo are fat and salt content. The amount of sugar, fiber, vitamins, minerals and overall nutrition don't really play a role.

Once the journalist did her in-depth interview with a representative from the foundation, there was a change to the criteria announced on the foundation's website. Although, companies will have 2 years to make the changes.

There are videos and information from past shows

My best advice: you need to learn for yourself what is healthy and what is not healthy so you can make informed decisions based on your knowledge versus based on marketing and corporate profits. There is no law that says a company can't tell you something that is unhealthy is healthy. Companies are interested in selling their product to you and having you be loyal to their brand. If their product is healthy, great! If not, oh well, they figure it's your responsibility to make your own choices. Just remember, everything is marketing. Commercials are marketing. Labelling and packaging is marketing. The colour of a product is marketing. Even this blog is marketing. But there's a million dollar question: Is itjustmarketing?  What each of us needs to learn to do, isdiscernwhether what isbehindthe marketing is good quality or poor quality.

More on how to choose in another post -- or rather several others, it's a big topic.


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