Monday, August 20, 2012

Health Check vs Guiding Stars Round 1: Vegetable Juice

The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program here in Canada sells companies the right to print the Health Check logo on the fronts of packages of products that satisfy anywhere from 3-7 nutritional criteria.  Health Check advertising tells Canadians that if they see a food with a Health Check they can feel assured that product is "part of a healthy diet" and that it's been evaluated by the Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians. Only companies who pay can play.

Hannaford Brothers' Guiding Stars is a front of package food labeling program recently rolled out by Loblaws supermarkets here in Ontario. Foods are evaluated on 13 different nutritional determinants of health and are awarded from 0-3 stars with 0 being the worst (think of it as a grade of 0-25% on a test) and 3 being the best (75%-100%). Unlike with Health Check, every single item in the supermarket is scored with the stars appearing beside the price on each and every item's store display.

A few days ago I decided to take a field trip to my local Loblaws and further compare Health Checks to Guiding Stars.

Up today? V8 - the drink that pretends it's a vegetable.

Health Check: Check!

Guiding Stars: Zero.

I guess Guiding Stars doesn't think processed, salty (1/3 of your daily Heart and Stroke Foundation recommended maximum per cup), vegetable juice is so miraculous. And while there are certainly many who need not worry about sodium, somehow I'd imagine the folks who care most about the Heart and Stroke's recommendations (you know, the folks with heart disease, hypertension and vascular disease) are folks for who V8 would be a most unwise regular beverage.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Round 2 (Chili)

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  1. I was in Loblaws the other day and saw the stars. At first I wasn't sure what it was, but then I remembered your post from last year about it. The item I was looking at was canned evaporated milk (e.g., Carnation). The reduced fat (fat-free and 2%) were both given 3 stars and the regular (whole) got 2 stars. Neither of those products has a Health Check logo, BTW.

  2. As a researcher in the field of medical anthropology (focussing on migrant obesity) it occurs to me that while people who are not hungry can be induced to consume foods made tasty by the addition of salt, sugar and/or fat even when not hungry, it is difficult to induce people to consume many unadulterated foodstuffs when they are not hungry. The answer to the obesity problem would appear to be laughably simple: stop selling foods designed to be consumed by people when they are not hungry. They will still eat if and when they are hungry - and the whole world will benefit in health terms. Yes, I know it isn't that simple in reality, but as a theoretical answer it rocks.

  3. Talia8:56 pm

    It is such a shame that SO many consumers don't think for themselves. It seems an easy choice for me to stay away from V8 for multiple reasons, but the secret-behind the scenes, hands in each others pockets advertising campaigns just terrifies me for the majority of the human race, and future generations.
    I just made homemade, local, organic (low sodium, of course!) vegan borscht, and I know so many people who don't even cook!

  4. My mother had a heart attack at 46 years old. She was of healthy weight (around 130 lbs at the time) but was making a few other wrong choices... my grandfather had had his third heart attack and died also at the age of 46, so my mom was told that her heart problems may be genetic.
    One thing is that my mom loves salt. She uses salt on everything but will say that she each thing that she uses it on is the exception. She used to drink Clamato all of the time and her cardiologist told her to use V8 instead because it has less salt. However she adds salt to it.
    She sees that sticker and for her it is a green light. She was told that Olive oil is good... well then lather on the olive oil mayo and margarine. Or how about the Orange juice with Omega 3's... or the milk with extra calcium and of course the fat free yogourt.
    I would like to say that I don't fall into the marketing traps at the grocery store. We buy little processed foods and my kids know how to read labels. My kids understand that products are placed at their level to get their attention and If my kids see something they would really like to try we often will make it at home where we can control over the ingredients. I make most of our foods from scratch and for us, treats are treats. My mom won't take advice from me though because I am over weight. So automatically I know nothing about nutrition.