|The link is to the press release about the studies.|
88 dump trucks sounds like a huge stride. It would be if that was all that was necessary to bring the products of Health Check interested companies to low-sodium or sodium-free levels. But it isn't. Not even close.
I've looked at the Health Check September 2011 Nutrient Criteria and it's confused me about how I should celebrate its achievement. "Congratulations, Heart and Stroke! You've encouraged companies to reduce their daily tomato juice's sodium level to 480 mg per serving, 21 per cent of the H&S recommended maximum sodium intake of 2300 mg per day!" (That's the max of what your body can tolerate. The amount of sodium needed by the body is much lower.) 250 mL is the organization's serving size for tomato juice. That's only a cup (think measuring cup). Who drinks that little?
A 125 g serving of cottage cheese can qualify with 360 mg of sodium. 16 per cent of your maximum recommended daily intake.
I'm not a dietitian or anything, but those sodium levels are exorbitant, especially if one wants to also consume meals during the day. It shouldn't be difficult to consume the necessary amounts of all the nutrients we need while staying within the sodium limits. I shudder to think of how much sodium is in the products that don't qualify for Health Check.
Health Check also has high levels of other less-than-healthy ingredients like sugar. The nutrients in Health Check products could probably stand to be higher and Health Check should evaluate more than just a few nutrients before qualifying something as "healthy."
I might feel a little better about this program if H&S marketed with messaging like "You should limit your intake of processed foods, but these are the healthier choices if you are going to use them" (and promoted options that are actually healthy). Instead, the Health Check certification, which is given to fast food and a lot of processed grocery store foods, implies that consuming it is good for your heart. I've read those nutrition labels and ingredient lists on Health Check products. Really? The healthy option? I just don't buy it. And I'm not the only one.
Consumers need to consider that their health may not be the companies' motivation for lowering their sodium and this may explain why the companies haven't gone as far as bringing their sodium levels down to low, not just lower. The Health Check label is a powerful marketing tool for the brands that wear it and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Health conscious consumers may choose Health Check labeled products over those that don't carry the label.
Companies have to apply and pay a fee to get the label. Seriously? It's not going to tell you which product on the shelf is healthiest; it will tell you which product(s) has applied to, paid for and qualified for the Health Check label. Companies have an edge over their competitors who haven't sought Health Check, even if these competitors' products are healthier. The whole thing is misleading for consumers who seem to have less to gain from this than the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the companies who proudly wear the Health Check label.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has huge potential to set a precedent for companies to produce low-sodium or sodium-free products (again, not just lower). There is such a big need for this because consumers just can't seem to get away from sodium. It's in everything! In such high quantities!
I'd like to see the Heart and Stroke campaign for legislation that would make it less difficult and more affordable for Canadians to buy low-sodium or sodium-free foods. Hold companies accountable too.
What do you think of my criticism of the Heart and Stroke Foundation? Had you already heard about this controversy?