Monday, April 09, 2012

Heart and Stroke Foundation Health Check on 10 Teaspoons of Sugar a Glass

Over the years I've made a great deal of noise about the Health Check program. For those of you who aren't aware, it's a Heart and Stroke Foundation program where they sell their Health Check logo to food manufacturers to use in front-of-package product branding.  Sadly the criteria they use to award their Checks is weak.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's own research has demonstrated that not surprisingly, consumers interpret Health Checks to mean a particular item is good for them, healthy, and approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Sitting down to our first Seder I noticed the grape juice in front of me had a Health Check.

The Health Check'ed grape juice, while indeed delivering 100% of my daily Vitamin C needs per glass, did so along with 40g of sugar. That's 10 teaspoons of sugar a glass! I also noticed it delivered pretty much nothing else in the way of nutritional benefits and that an unbelievable 94% of its calories came directly from sugar.

One glass of Health Check'ed grape juice then has 2.5 more teaspoons of sugar than a full sized Snickers bar, or as much as you'd find in 90 M&Ms. Drop per drop the grape juice also has 60% more calories and 60% more sugar than Coca Cola!

Of course if you ate the 90 M&Ms (or the 1.3 Snickers bars) at least you'd likely curb some of your appetite, as studies on eating vs. drinking calories demonstrate we compensate for the calories we eat, but not the ones we drink, meaning drink a glass of grape juice and regardless of its calories or sugar, you'll still eat as much for the meal as if you hadn't drank any.

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends limiting juice to just half a cup a day and as far as I know the Heart and Stroke Foundation is the only health authority in North America who is explicitly advising consumers that 10 teaspoons of sugar to make your vitamin C go down is good for them, healthy, and approved by Registered Dietitians.

As to why they do it.

The only plausible reason is money as last time I checked, no one in their right mind would suggest consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar a glass could in any way shape or form be healthy. There's simply nothing that could be added to a glass of 10 teaspoons of sugar that would make that glassful a healthy choice. Delicious? Maybe to some. But certainly not healthy.

So how much money?

Currently there are 138 juice products whose parent companies have paid for Health Checks. That's just under 10% of all the Checks they currently sell.  As far as dollars go, my guess then would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $300,000-$400,000 just from Health Check'ed juices.

I don't know about you, but I'd sure cost a lot more then $400,000 to sell out.