Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Health Check's Insignificant Revisions

So almost a full year after the release of the new Canada's Food Guide the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check has finally figured out what revisions it wants made to their incredibly poor, 16 year old, criteria.

Perhaps tellingly the revisions were released without fanfare or press release on their website this past Friday (UPDATE July 23rd, 2009: They removed the press release from their website) and despite noting,

"Health Check's Technical Advisory Committee, made up of dietitians and nutritional experts from across the country, have developed and recommended these changes."
a list of said dietitians and experts is nowhere to be found (Though I can't say I blame them, I wouldn't want my name attached to this mess either)

So what exactly did they change?

Not much.

Restaurant criteria stayed exactly the same.

Supermarket criteria had 6 minor adjustments:

1. Trans-fats can now only make up 5% of an item's total fat content.

[Contrast that weak limitation to these statements that the Heart and Stroke Foundation's own CEO Sally Brown made last year,
"Trans fats are a "toxic" killer that need to be removed from the food chain as soon as possible"
Sally Brown, National Post Jan. 11th, 2007
"We want this toxin - which is what it is - removed from our food supply"
Sally Brown, CNews, Apr. 5th, 2007
"The longer we wait, the more illness and in fact death will happen, so we know we have to get it out of our food supply"

"There is no safe amount of trans consumption"
Sally Brown, The Windsor Star, Jun. 5, 2007]

2. Breakfast cereals, waffles, and pancakes can now only contain 11grams or less of sugar (6 grams or less in cold breakfast cereals) per serving.

3. Breakfast cereals, waffles, and pancakes now must be "a source of fibre" (how much of course they don't specify)

4. Grain based bars (breakfast bars), muffins, snack breads and cookies may now only have 50% of their carbohydrates be sugar based.

5. A blanket fat reduction (including healthy fats) in the fats found in grain based bars, muffins, snack breads, cookies and dips.

and lastly,

6. A reduction in total sodium for dinner entrees purchased in groceries down to 720mg or less.

So to sum up:

  • They've recommended limiting but not eliminating trans-fats, a food additive that their own CEO called a toxin unsafe in any amount.

  • They've recommended some blind fat reductions thereby ignoring the concept of some fats in fact being beneficial to heart health (something even our lowly Food Guide noticed).

  • They've still pretty much ignored sodium so for example pieces of bread, beverages or soups with 1/3 of your total recommended sodium intake are still just dandy with them.

  • They've recommended a small reduction in added sugar to a very small percentage of their categories and still ignore the fact that juice is simply a glass of sugar with a few nutrients, and with no limitations on its consumption thereby also ignore the recommendations of the world's experts in childhood obesity.

  • They haven't touched their restaurant criteria thereby they still allow for restaurants to push salt at you in total day's worth quantities in single, Health Checked meals.

  • They haven't put any limits on red meat consumption despite its clear cut link with cancer and the limitations recommended by the World Cancer Research Fund and the world's experts in nutrition including Harvard's Walt Willett.

  • They haven't made any distinction between whole grain consumption and refined and are therefore happy selling you products that are entirely refined (this despite the new Food Guide's weak but perhaps better than nothing recommendation we make at least half of our grains whole) thereby allowing you to, with their explicit blessing, increase your risk of developing type II diabetes.

  • They haven't stopped endorsing junk food as healthy choices thereby continuing to lull consumers into thinking that perhaps serving their children Health Check'ed cookies, muffins or french fries are just as good and healthy as fruit and vegetables (interestingly again here even our Food Guide recommends we limit the sweet stuff and certainly unlike the Heart and Stroke Foundation doesn't suggest in any way shape or form that cookies are healthy).

  • They haven't banned the use of cartoon characters to peddle their foods to children - a practice universally maligned among responsible children's and nutritional advocates.

  • Lastly of course, they still ignore obesity inducing Calories.

  • Forgive me if I don't applaud.