Thursday, August 23, 2012

Health Check vs. Guiding Stars Final Round: Soup and a Summary

Up today? Soups and a summary.

The soup situation is pretty easy to describe. In the entire Loblaws, and this was a gigantic Loblaws, there were only a literal handful of soups that had single Guiding Stars (and ironically only one of those had a Health Check). The rest had zero.

On the other hand, there were dozens of Health Check'ed soups - soups which contained in many cases  the Health Check maximal 480mg of sodium per 250mL serving.....yet virtually everyone serves soup in 500mL bowls.  At 500mL then you'd be having just under 2/3 of your day's Heart and Stroke Foundation recommended sodium allotment with many of these Health Check'ed soups.

To summarize. Health Check doesn't help and I think its nutritional criteria are so weak and the program so poorly executed that rather than help consumers, it hinders healthy choices. You can't compare Health Check'ed items to Health Check'ed items as an item either has a check or it doesn't. You can't compare Health Check'ed items to unchecked items as you need to pay the Heart and Stroke Foundation for the right to market your product with a Health Check but given the myriad of examples I saw where unchecked items had even 3 Guiding Stars, not every product wants to pay for Checks.

Worse still after spending an hour roaming the aisles the other thing that struck me about Health Check - it suggests to consumers that there are shortcuts to health. That cooking, actual cooking, isn't necessary - you could buy health in Health Check'ed cans and boxes.  That's a message amplified by the fact that there were virtually no check marks on actual produce and yet there were Health Checks on what I would honestly describe as candy.

And don't get me started on their restaurant and fast food Health Checks.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation should be championing one of two things - either a useful front of package program (and here my choice would be Nuval where rather than the 4 gradations of Guiding Stars comparisons there are 100) that would actually help inform consumers about the products they're considering, or skipping the boxes and restaurants altogether and sounding a clarion call that as a society we need to rediscover the love and use of our actual kitchens and provide Canadians with resources to help ease them into actual cooking.

[And if you missed it, you can click here for further background.]