Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Heart and Stroke Foundation Is Once Again Giving Health Check to Cookies?

Back in January 2008 I blogged about the inanity of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program awarding its check mark to cookies.

I pointed out that the Health Check logo when awarded to cookies deceives Canadians into thinking that Check'ed cookies are not only choices that shouldn't be limited but rather choices that are, according to their own market research,
"'nutritious', 'healthy', 'good for you' or 'approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.'"
Perhaps in response to some of the stink I'd been raising in July 2009 the Heart and Stroke Foundation announced,
"To remain consistent with the recommendations in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, the Cookies category is being removed from the Health Check program. Effective immediately Health Check will not accept any new food item from the Cookies category to join the program"
At the time, I did in fact take them at their word (though I couldn't help but scratch my head on why it is they needed the Food Guide to suggest to them cookies shouldn't get Checks).

Perhaps I shouldn't have.

I saw this product in the supermarket the other day. It's Dole's Mixed Berry and Almond Bites and there's no mistaking that it's being promoted as a healthful choice. Its box shouts that it's made with all natural ingredients, that there are no artificial preservatives, that there are 2 grams of fibre per serving (clearly proving that Canadians don't know much about fibre given that 2g of fibre isn't all that exciting), it's part of their "Live Right" branding, and yes indeed, it sports the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check logo.

Looking at the nutritional breakdown you'll find that the "bites" are 32% sugar by weight, that they have virtually nothing nutritionally redeeming in them (that 2g of fibre - you can get that from half a small apple), and that their 11 grams (nearly 3 teaspoons) of sugar per serving are just 0.1 grams shy of the sugar you'd find in an equivalent weight of Chips-Ahoy cookies.

So are these "bites" cookies? Well they sure look like cookies. I'm guessing they also taste like cookies. They certainly pack the sugar of cookies. But unlike cookies, these healthwashed "bites" are being marketed to people, likely including parents of young children, as being a healthy, good for you, choice. That in fact makes them worse than cookies because at least with cookies you won't be as likely to kid yourself into thinking they're healthy choices for you or your children.

Would love to know what the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check folks call these things, because if they're not cookies, I'm not sure what I'd call them.