OTTAWA, Feb. 22, 2012 /CNW/ - Two recent external studies show that The
Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program is having a positive
effect on the Canadian food supply including driving significant
reductions in sodium content. Health Check also announced a follow-up
study on sodium that will assess impact and guide further reductions of
the program's criteria.
Sodium study released in Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
A study highlighting significant sodium reductions in Canadian food
products prompted by the Health Check program was released in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research.
"Reducing the amount of sodium in the foods available to Canadians is a
priority concern," says Rickey Yada, PhD, Chair, Canada Research Chair
in Food Protein Structure, Scientific Director Advanced Foods and
Materials Network (AFMNet) Department of Food Science University of
Guelph, and Chair, Health Check Technical Advisory Committee. "Health
Check is doing this in a practical way, over time, by encouraging food
companies to make significant and lasting improvements."
The study by Jane Dummer, registered dietitian, identifies the role
Health Check nutrient criteria played in triggering industry program
participants to reduce sodium in their products from 2004 - 2008. The
study concludes that 150 products reduced sodium levels to meet the
Health Check criteria for a total reduction of 800,000 kg of salt
(~322, 000 kg of sodium), an amount equivalent to 88 dump trucks of
salt being driven out of the Canadian food supply (abstract available
More studies - and dump trucks - are on the way
Follow-up sodium study announced
A follow-up to the sodium study will commence in Spring 2012, led by Dr.
Mary L'Abbé, Earle W. McHenry Professor and Chair, Department of
Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. This
study will examine reductions in sodium levels in Health Check program
grocery products between January 2009 and December 2011. During this
period changes to the Health Check sodium criteria came into affect
with reductions of between 25% - 70% in many categories. The results
are expected to be significant and will include the total amount of
sodium removed from these products both as a result of reformulations
and new product development. This study will also take an even more
comprehensive approach by examining other nutrients.
"We are thrilled with the results of the study published in the Journal
that clearly illustrates the positive difference the Health Check
program is making to the Canadian food supply," says Bobbe Wood,
President, Heart and Stroke Foundation. "And we look forward to making
an even bigger difference as the program continues to strengthen and
While a small amount of sodium is necessary to maintain health,
Canadians are consuming on average about 3,400 mg of sodium per day
when they should be consuming no more than 2,300 mg per day. More than
three-quarters (77%) of the sodium Canadians consume comes from
processed food sold in grocery stores and in food service outlets. The
Heart and Stroke Foundation is committed to helping Canadians reduce
the amount of sodium in their diets, and Health Check is one practical
way it does this by challenging food companies to reduce the amount of
sodium in their products.
Findings from formal evaluation of the Health check program
A formal third-party evaluation of the Health Check program led by John
Spence, PhD, University of Alberta was completed in 2011. This
evaluation examined a number of factors including the impact of the
program on helping consumers make healthy food choices and the extent
to which Health Check has influenced the reformulation of products and
the development of more healthy products.
The findings noted that food manufacturers interviewed claimed Health
Check criteria stimulated companies to reformulate existing products
and was the standard used when developing new ones.
This evaluation also proposed recommendations for improvements in the
areas of program management, marketing and promotion, and future
research. Most of the proposed changes were already in progress when
the evaluation was completed and the remaining recommendations are
currently being addressed. The full list of recommendations and how
Health Check is addressing them as well as the executive summary from
the evaluation are available on the Health Check website (healthcheck.org).
ABOUT HEALTH CHECK
Health Check is one way the Heart and Stroke Foundation helps Canadians
Health Check helps Canadians make healthy food choices in grocery stores
and restaurants; educates consumers on healthy eating; and challenges
and works with the food industry to make the food supply healthier.
Nutrient criteria are developed by Heart and Stroke Foundation
registered dietitians based on recommendations in Canada's Food Guide.
Nutrient criteria have been developed for the following nutrients: total
fat, saturated fat and trans fat, fibre, sodium, sugar, protein,
certain vitamins and minerals.
The criteria are not evaluated independent of each other - many products
or menu items include several criteria if appropriate, for example the
criteria for breakfast cereals include fat, trans fat, fibre, sodium
and sugar. The nutrient criteria were developed for each food category
by looking at the nutrients that would make a difference to the
Health Check is the only neutral, third-party, not-for-profit food
information program in the country.
Industry has not involvement in setting the criteria.
Grocery items and restaurant menu items must earn the right to display
the logo. Companies pay a modest fee to participate only once the
criteria are met.
The program is not for profit and runs on a cost recovery basis.
Health Check is on a journey. The program continues to evolve - the criteria will strengthen,
restaurants and food companies will continue to reformulate and develop
healthier items, and Canadians' palates will adjust and their eating
habits will improve overall. Health Check is moving the dial and making
positive changes to the food supply so Canadians will have better
access to, and be able to identify, healthy food choices wherever they
For more information visit healthcheck.org
SOURCE HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION OF CANADA
For further information:
Heart and Stroke Foundation, Health Check
613-569-4361 ext 351