Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Get Mail (but not answers) From Sobey's!

Last week I emailed Sobey's what I thought to be a lucid argument as to why their advertising campaign that suggests eating Compliments Balance products will lower calories, salt, cholesterol and fat is misleading.

So either I was wrong in thinking my arguments were lucid, or Sobey's is avoiding directly addressing my concerns.

To reiterate my concerns - I'm concerned because Sobey's is making claims they cannot support - claims that to me certainly add up to health fraud.

To her credit, Belinda Youngs, Chief Marketing Officer of Sobey's does report that she will ensure that their, "marketing executions" are revisited. I of course will periodically report on whether or not this revisitation has resulted in removal of the ads promising undeliverable health miracles.

(As an aside - what do you think would happen to all of these programs that are now officially married to the Food Guide if someone or someones other than me came out and bashed it?)

Here's Ms. Young's response,

"Dear Dr. Freedhoff,

Thank you for your feedback on our Compliments Balance products and our partnership with Health Check.

Canadian consumers have different dietary needs depending on the end-goal they want to achieve, such as disease prevention, weight control or overall healthier dietary lifestyle. On this principle, the Compliments Balance program was developed in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program to provide consumers with healthier options for managing their personal diets.

Such dietary needs as defined by dietitians and physicians may require a higher intake of key nutrients such as fibre, vitamins or minerals like vitamin C and calcium, or lower levels of less desirable nutrients such as fat, sugar or sodium. It is for this reason that we stand by our Compliments Balance statement of "Find your healthy balance".

All our Compliments Balance products meet the nutrient criteria of the Health Check program. We stand by Health Check as the only independent and transparent food information program in our country that is based on Canada's Food Guide.
Healthy choices are a very personal matter depending on the overall goal that our customers want to achieve. Delivering this message through clear communication is our main objective and we will revisit our marketing executions to ensure that this is the case.

We are strong supporters of the recommendations established in Canada's Food Guide and other similar guidelines developed by Canadian health agencies that have been used to develop our Compliments Balance program.

Belinda Youngs
Chief Marketing Officer

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  1. Anonymous12:12 pm

    Could you comment on the statement that "Health Check is the only independent and transparent food info program in our country..."
    Is that accurate?

  2. Independent? Sure.

    Transparent? Maybe.

    Evidence-based? No.

    Rigorous? No.

    Powerful? No.

    Misleading? Absolutely.

    Misinforming? Absolutely.

    For much, much more information click the health check logo on my sidebar.

  3. what about the "only" part of the statement?

    Could you comment on the statement that "Health Check is the only independent and transparent food info program in our country..."
    Is that accurate?

  4. Breanne, unfortunately "only independent and transparent" is accurate as the other food information programs (things like Smart Spot and Sensible Solutions) while independent, are not transparent.

    Thank goodness for that transparency too as it allows evidence-based and educated thinkers to immediately see how woefully inadequate Health Check's nutritionally criteria are (and proving that being the best in a field of one is probably not something one should brag about)

  5. I think what is meant by "independent" is that the program is not facilitated by, or affiliated with, a food company. It is an independent source of evaluation of food products. So, in fact, Health Check IS the only food program in Canada that is independent.

    As for transparent: I do not understand why Dr. Freedhoff considers the other food programs non-transparent as you can easily find information on the criteria for those symbols on their respective websites. I have easily found criteria for Sensible Solution, Blue Menu, Smart Spot and Goodness Corner sybols.

    In fact, many symbols describe the *reason* for the product's inclusion in the program right in the symbol or somewhere on the package (e.g the blue menu box and the sensible solution flag).

    When I pick up one of these products, I know exactly why it carries the symbol. The little flag or box tells me that it is lower in fat or higher in fibre than the regular version, for example. I do not consider this 'non-transparent'.

    So, in summary, I disagree with Dr. Freedhoff - Health Check IS the only independent food program in Canada, but not the only transparent food program.