Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Food Guides and Health Checks Matter - Advertising Edition

So when Dr. Brian Cook did in fact give his talk in Ottawa at the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's recent conference the media took notice.

The day immediately after his talk, Sarah Schmidt from CanWest Global published a piece about his findings that despite so-called self-regulatory efforts, most of what was advertised to children was junk food.


Self-imposed regulations are about as binding as a rubber band.

Don't believe me?

See all those cereals at the top of this post? Dr. Cook pointed out that all of them meet the voluntary guidelines Big Food sets for "healthier" options and hence fair game to them to advertise to children (and just two days ago he emailed me to mention that because of some reformulation Count Chocula will now also meet the Food Industry's "healthier" criteria).

So why does this post mention the Food Guide and Health Check?

Well when faced with the accusations laid by Dr. Cook and his Australian colleagues what did the spokesperson for Advertising Standards Canada, the national advertising industry self-regulatory body, use to defend Big Food?

You guessed it!

Here's the quote from Sarah's story,

"Janet Feasby is vice-president of standards at Advertising Standards Canada, a national advertising industry self-regulatory body overseeing the initiative. She said the current approach is sound because products that make the cut for a healthier dietary choice must meet established scientific and government standards.

They include foods that meet the standards for participating in the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program and foods that meet criteria for nutrient content claims in Canada's Food Guide
If I was a Big Food executive I'd be sending huge Christmas presents to the folks behind the Food Guide and Health Check - those guys sure know how to help sell crappy food!