Heart and Stroke Foundation Report Asks: What's in Store for Canada's Heart Health?

    New Report Reveals Big Inconsistencies in Price and Accessibility of
    Healthy Food Across Canada


    TORONTO, Feb. 9 /CNW/ - The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Annual Report
on Canadians' Health reveals startling discrepancies between the cost and
accessibility of basic healthy food within provinces and across the country.
Depending on where you live, some Canadians are often paying more than double
to almost six times the price for the same basic healthy food.
    The Foundation is calling on governments to monitor and periodically
report on the price of core staples to help create a level playing field for
all Canadians and for food manufacturers, retailers and marketing boards to
explore food pricing and promotion inconsistencies within and between
communities in Canada.
    "Many provincial governments regulate the price of alcohol across
provinces, but healthy food is subject to significant price variations from
one community to the next," says Stephen Samis, Director of Health Policy,
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "You have to wonder why we control the
price of alcohol but allow such price inconsistencies for healthy food - and
not just in remote regions of the country - but even between larger
metropolitan areas."
    A national poll conducted by the Foundation found that almost half (47%)
of Canadians report going without fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products,
whole grain products, lean meat or fish because they are too expensive.
Further, 68% of Canadians identified price as "extremely" or "very" important
when choosing which items make it into their grocery cart.
    The wide price variations in healthy foods from one community to the next
is even more disturbing when compared to the relatively stable price of pop,
chips and cookies.
    "Healthy eating is a key factor in preventing heart disease," says Dr.
Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson and cardiologist.
"This report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation should serve as a wake-up call
that healthy eating is in danger of being out of reach for many Canadians, a
problem which may only get worse given the current downturn in the economy."
    In October, 2008 the Heart and Stroke Foundation recruited volunteer
shoppers in 66 communities nationwide to purchase a list of food based on
Health Canada's National Nutritious Food Basket. This basket was originally
created as a measure of food security - a term referring to the availability
of healthy food and one's access to it. The Foundation adapted the food basket
for this study to feed a family of four for one week. To ensure consistency,
the leading national brands by dollar share on a 52-week average were chosen
according to AC Nielsen data. Shoppers were asked to choose a national or
regional grocery chain in their community that was not considered a discount
grocery store. All shopping was conducted between October 15 and 25, 2008.
This first-ever cross-country shop revealed some dramatic variations in the
price of basic healthy food from milk and lean ground beef to apples and


    The following charts reflect the four basic food groups as defined by
Canada's Food Guide and show the top five communities with the highest and
lowest prices for some of the foods purchased in the Foundation's survey.

    Fruit and vegetable prices fluctuate wildly

    Extreme cost variations were also found across the country and even
within a province. For example, 6 apples ranged from $1.71 in Edmonton to
$5.02 in Calgary. In Ontario, where apples are grown regionally, the cost
varied from 90 cents in Peterborough to $5.49 in Dryden. And in a country
where apples are grown in multiple regions, these price variations are
surprising. A 2.7 kg bag of potatoes ranged from $1.50 in Toronto to $2.15 in
Whitehorse, YT to $6.95 in Yellowknife, NWT.

    Product            Apples (6 medium)             Potatoes (2.7 kg)
    National Avg.  $3.50                         $4.25
    Communities    1. Rankin Inlet, NU ($7.64)   1. Rankin Inlet, NU ($8.19)
    with the       2. Dryden, ON ($5.49)         2. Yellowknife, NT &
    highest        3. Grande Prairie, AB ($5.24)    Melfort, SK ($6.95)
    prices         4. Thompson, MB ($5.16)       3. Swift Current, SK &
                   5. Calgary, AB ($5.02)           Dryden, ON ($5.99)
                      AVG TOP 5 equals $5.71     4. Corner Brook, NL,
                                                    Woodstock, Peterborough,
                                                    Vaughan & Chatham, ON
                                                 5. Invermere, BC & Brandon,
                                                    MB ($4.98)
                                                 AVG TOP 5 = $6.22
    Communities    1. Peterborough, ON ($0.90)   1. Toronto, ON ($1.50)
    with the       2. Toronto, ON ($1.00)        2. Whitehorse, YT ($2.15)
    lowest         3. Edmonton, AB ($1.71)       3. Amherst, NS & Saint John,
    prices         4. Corner Brook, NL ($1.91)      NB ($2.99)
                   5. Brandon, MB ($2.02)        4. London, ON ($3.29)
                      AVG LOW 5 equals $1.51     5. Kitchener, ON, Jonquiere,
                                                    QC, Montreal, QC; The
                                                    Pas, MB, Nanaimo\&
                                                    Vancouver, BC ($3.49)
                                                 AVG LOW 5 = $2.68
    Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation

    Going Against the Grain

    Some of the most disturbing data is reflected in the price variations in
grain products. For example, a package of whole-wheat pasta that cost $2.00 in
Barrie, Ont, was $7.90 in Regina, SK and $11.37 in Dawson, Yukon. A bag of
brown rice ranged from $2.19 in Toronto to $7.76 in Winnipeg to $11.99 in
Rankin Inlet. These represent approximately four-fold and six-fold increases
in prices.

    Product          Whole Wheat Pasta (900 g)     Brown Rice (1 kg)
    National Avg.  $5.48                         $4.99
    Communities    1. Dawson, YT ($11.37)        1. Rankin Inlet, NU ($11.99)
    with the       2. Kelowna, BC ($8.38)        2. Fort McMurray, AB ($8.09)
    highest        3. Fort McMurray, AB,         3. Calgary, AB ($7.99)
    prices            Winnipeg, MB, Brooks, AB,  4. Winnipeg, MB ($7.76)
                      Thompson, MB, & Swift      5. Dryden, ON ($7.64)
                      Current, SK ($8.14)       AVG HIGH 5 = $8.69
                   4. Prince Albert & Regina,
                      SK ($7.90)
                   5. The Pas, MB ($7.66)
                      AVG HIGH 5 equals $8.69
    Communities    1. Barrie, ON ($2.00)         1. Vaughan & Toronto, ON
    with the       2. North Bay, ON ($2.19)         ($2.19)
    lowest         3. Windsor, ON & Saint        2. Digby, NS & Gander, NL
    prices            John, NB ($2.29)              ($2.29)
                   4. Peterborough, ON ($2.69)   3. Peterborough, Kitchener
                   5. Jonquiere, QC ($3.18)         & Chatham, ON ($2.43)
                      AVG LOW 5 equals $2.47     4. North Bay, ON ($2.49)
                                                 5. Kingston, ON ($2.50)
                                                 AVG LOW 5 = $2.38
    Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation

    "Previous research funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation(1) has shown
us that, independent of any other heart disease risk factor, diets rich in
fruit, vegetables and whole grains may decrease your risk of heart disease by
as much as 30 percent," says Dr. Marco Di Buono, Director of Research, Heart
and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

    (1) Iqbal R, Anand S, Ounpuu S, Islam S, Zhang X, Rangarajan S, et al.
        Dietary patterns and the risk of acute myocardial infarction in 52
        countries. Results of the INTERHEART study. Circulation

    Dairy Products show wide variation

    In the case of both milk and cheese, the average cost of these two staples
in the five communities with the highest prices is more than double the
average price in the five communities with the lowest prices.

    Product            1% Milk (4 L)                 Cheddar Cheese (520 g)
    National Avg.  $5.26                         $9.15
    Communities    1. Rankin Inlet, NU ($11.89)  1. Thunder Bay, ON ($14.61)
    with the       2. Gander, NL ($7.90)         2. Dawson, YT ($14.37)
    highest        3. Wolfville, NS ($7.58)      3. Winnipeg, MB ($13.57)
    prices         4. St. John's, NL ($7.54)     4. The Pas, MB ($13.50)
                   5. Bridgewater, Halifax,      5. Saskatoon, SK ($13.31)
                      Digby, Sydney &           AVG TOP 5 = $13.87
                      Amherst, NS ($7.23)
                      AVG TOP 5 equals $8.43
    Communities    1. Vancouver & Delta, BC      1. Charlottetown, PEI,
    with the          ($3.49)                       Montreal, QC & Barrie,
    lowest         2. Prince Albert, SK ($3.83)     ON ($4.99)
    prices         3. Chatham, Kitchener,        2. Vancouver, BC, Melfort,
                      Scarborough, ON ($3.97)       SK & Yellowknife, NT
                   4. The Pas, MB ($3.99)           ($5.87)
                   5. Dryden, ON ($4.08)         3. Jonquière, QC & North
                      AVG LOW equals $3.87          Bay, ON ($5.99)
                                                 4. Quebec City, QC ($6.29)
                                                 5. Regina, SK ($6.49)
                                                   AVG LOW = $5.93
    Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation

    Trying to Make Ends Meat

    Meat and alternatives also experience wide fluctuations. In both cases,
products found in the highest priced communities were more than twice as
expensive as the average cost in the lowest priced communities.

    Product          Lean Ground Beef (1 kg)        Peanut Butter (1 kg)
    National Avg.  $7.18                          $5.27
    Communities    1. Ottawa, ON ($13.21)        1. Rankin Inlet, NU ($8.49)
    with the       2. Rankin Inlet, NU ($11.99)  2. Invermere, BC ($8.39)
    highest        3. Digby, NS ($10.25)         3. Dawson, YT ($8.29)
    prices         4. Rimouski, QC ($9.10)       4. St. Catharines, ON
                   5. Chibougamau, QC ($9.02)       ($7.58)
                      AVG HIGH 5 equals $10.71   5. Kelowna, BC ($6.99)
                                                AVG HIGH 5 = $7.95
    Communities    1. Barrie & Timmins, ON       1. St. John's, NL ($2.99)
    with the          ($4.14)                    2. Regina, SK ($3.29)
    lowest         2. North Bay & Sudbury,       3. Kitchener, ON ($3.99)
    prices            ON ($4.39)                 4. Whitehorse, YT; Melfort,
                   3. Kingston & St.                SK, Vancouver, BC,
                      Catharines, ON ($4.41)        Yellowknife, NT & Delta,
                   4. Montreal, QC ($4.74)          BC ($4.27)
                   5. Peterborough, ON &         5. Rimouski, QC ($4.29)
                      Whitehorse, YT ($4.99)     AVG LOW 5 = $3.77
                      AVG LOW 5 equals $4.53
    Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation

    Overall, fruit, vegetables and dairy accounted for almost 40% of the cost
of the grocery bill almost everywhere in the country, except Nunavut and the
NWT where they accounted for closer to 50% of the grocery bill. These price
variations may help to explain why almost half of Canadian adults and 70% of
Canadian children don't consume the minimum recommended servings of vegetables
and fruit from Canada's Food Guide and one third of Canadian children aren't
consuming the recommended servings of milk products.(2)
    "This can only encourage unhealthy eating behavior that will ultimately
lead to obesity and risk factors for heart disease," says Dr. Beth Abramson.
The situation is even worse for Canada's First Nations people and Inuit, many
of whom live in isolated communities. For example, the Foundation shopped for
food on a First Nations reserve in Bearskin Lake in Northern Ontario. The data
on the reserve were not included in the national figures because many items
were either extremely expensive or unavailable.
    In Bearskin Lake, four litres of milk was $15.70 (compared to $3.49 in
Vancouver); and a package of whole wheat pasta was $8.68 (compared to $2.00 in
Barrie, Ont.). Other high cost items included: $10.99 for six oranges; $7.45
for six apples; and $10.88 for a 2.7 kg. bag of carrots. Many healthy foods
including chicken legs, frozen fish, fresh tomatoes, fresh broccoli, canned
corn, canned peas, frozen mixed vegetables, potatoes and brown rice weren't
available in Bearskin Lake.
    The overall grocery bill in Bearskin Lake was $216.15, which is
stunningly high when a third of the items on the Foundation's list were not
available. By comparison, the overall grocery bill was $173.72 in Jonquière,
Que, $179.59 in Sydney, NS and $185.44 in Toronto - communities in which all
items were available.

    (2) Statistics Canada, 2006. Research Paper. Nutrition findings from the
        Canadian Community Health Survey: Canadians' eating habits 2004.
        Catalogue no 82-620-MIE - No. 2. Available online at:

    Accessibility an issue

    In addition to significant inequalities in the price and affordability of
healthy foods, the Heart and Stroke Foundation's study found that many
Canadians can't even find healthy food where they usually do their grocery
    For example, dried beans and frozen spinach were unavailable in almost
one in three grocery stores where the Foundation shopped. One in five stores
had no un-breaded frozen fish. Surprisingly, fresh chicken legs could not be
found in more than 10% of the stores shopped.
    "Difficulty accessing basic, healthy foods is particularly problematic
for Canadians who are consciously trying to reduce their risk of heart disease
and stroke through healthy eating," says Dr. Beth Abramson.

    Inexpensive chips and pop found in almost every community

    The wide price variations in healthy foods from one community to the next
is even more troubling when compared to the relatively stable prices of pop,
chips and cookies - foods Canada's Food Guide recommends we consume less
frequently. The Foundation included such items in the shopping cart to compare
their affordability and accessibility. These unhealthy snacks are the only
items that showed little price variation across the country. To view the price
comparison chart for unhealthy snacks go to: www.heartandstroke.ca/reportcard.
    The Nutritious Food Basket is meant to determine whether all Canadians
have access to food that will help them meet the recommendations in Canada's
Food Guide. Eating according to the guide is the first big step to healthy
lifestyles that will prevent the rise of chronic diseases such as obesity and
risk factors for heart disease.
    "And for many Canadians, such as my patients who are actually living with
heart disease, heart-healthy eating goes even further. The Foundation's survey
suggests the cost of food my heart patients may require is higher than the
cost of basic healthy food in the Food Basket," says Dr. Abramson.

     Food - National Average    Heart Healthy Alternative - National Average
                 Pasta                        Whole Wheat Pasta
                 $3.77                              $5.39
                 Rice                             Brown Rice
                 $4.71                              $5.09
     Margarine containing trans fat       Margarine, Trans Fat Free
                 $2.79                              $3.29
    Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation


    The Heart and Stroke Foundation surveyed more than 1,400 Canadians who
are the primary grocery shopper in their household (age 25 and over) to gauge
the impact of cost on their buying habits, as well as their thoughts about
food prices and accessibility.
    The survey found that four out of 10 Canadians (42%) report that they
"occasionally" have to go without buying a particular type of food because of
its cost. Even more concerning, one in five Canadians surveyed (19%) report
not buying a particular type of food "almost every time" they shop because of
    What foods are Canadians most likely to have to skip? Almost one-quarter
of Canadians (23%) occasionally went without lean meat and poultry. This was
followed closely by fruit and vegetables, when one in five Canadians (20%)
left it on the shelf.
    Even if money is not an issue, many Canadians cannot always find
healthier food options. The Foundation asked Canadians across the country
about the selection of different food items in the stores where they usually
shop and they told us:

    -  One in seven rarely or never have a selection of fresh fish to choose
    -  Four in 10 rarely or never have a selection of extra lean cuts and
       types of meat and poultry
    -  Three in 10 rarely or never have a selection of low-fat milk, cheese
       or other lower-fat dairy products
    -  Nearly two in 10 rarely or never have a selection of fresh fruit and
       vegetables, with the same proportion reporting only a limited (or no)
       selection of whole-grain products

    "Canada has long been regarded as the breadbasket of the world, yet we
have difficulty ensuring that affordable and accessible nutritious food is
available to all Canadians," says Stephen Samis from the Heart and Stroke


    The majority of those polled by the Heart and Stroke Foundation thought
food manufacturers, food retailers and governments could all play a major role
in improving Canadians' access to affordable, healthy food. There was also
overwhelming support for specific forms of government regulation, education
and intervention.

    Canadians recommend that governments:
    Regulate the price of nutritious foods to ensure
     they are equally affordable in all regions of Canada               86%
    Make public education about nutrition an important part
     of governments' health programs and efforts                        93%
    Raise the income of poor Canadians so they can afford
     more nutritious foods                                              84%
    Margin of error is +/- 2.6% 19 times out of 20, Environics Survey

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation is concerned about Canadians' access to
healthy and affordable food and has taken a number of steps to address this
issue. For example, the Foundation:

    -  recently developed a Position Statement Access to Affordable, Healthy
       and Nutritious Food (Food Security)

    -  co-funded a national Chair in Public Health with Canadian Institutes
       of Health Research. This new Chair will explore factors contributing
       to poor nutrition, obesity and associated chronic diseases and ways
       of addressing these factors to improve health.

    -  is currently calling for proposals from researchers to conduct an
       international review of the evidence on how agricultural subsidies,
       pricing policies and tax incentives and disincentives affect the cost
       of various types of food and their impact on health

    -  is active at the community level in many local and provincially-based
       coalitions addressing issues related to low-income Canadians and food

    -  informs Canadians about the importance of healthy eating and its
       connection to our health through our educational materials and our
       website heartandstroke.ca

    Heart and Stroke Foundation Recommendations:

    The Foundation believes that governments can take action to improve
    Canadians' access to healthy and nutritious foods by:

    -  monitoring and periodically reporting on the price of core staples in
       the national nutritious food basket

    -  researching why there is so much inconsistency in the price of
       healthy foods within and across provinces

    -  expanding and enhancing the federal Food Mail program, a combined
       program of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), Canada Post and
       Health Canada, which provides nutritious perishable food and other
       essential items to isolated northern communities at reduced postal
       rates, to ensure affordable pricing of nutritious foods across all
       regions of Canada (especially remote and northern locations)

    The Foundation believes that food manufacturers, food retailers,
    marketing boards, (commissions or agencies) should:

    -  promote more equitable food pricing and promotion within and between
       communities in Canada

    The Foundation also believes that Canadians can:

    -  make vegetables and fruit a priority as much as possible

    -  Choose frozen healthy food when fresh is not available

    -  reduce the amount of high sugar, high fat snacks in favour of
       healthier alternatives

    -  support and encourage government policies and programs that will
       reduce poverty and address other barriers to healthy eating

    -  support sustainable community programs such as community kitchens and
       gardens that promote the availability and affordability of fresh,
       locally and regionally grown foods

    -  learn more about healthy eating at heartandstroke.ca

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads
in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the
advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living,
and advocacy.

    NOTE: This press release constitutes the Heart and Stroke Foundation's
    Annual Report on Canadians' Health - there is no separate report

    Log onto www.heartandstroke.ca/reportcard to view an online map and prices
per community.
    Journalists may join the Toronto press conference by dialing
1-800-732-9307 and asking for the Heart and Stroke Foundation press
    B-roll will be available through CNW Group - at the listed times and

    Live Satellite Coordinates:

    DATE OF FEED:   Monday, February 9

    TIME OF FEED:   11:00 AM - 11:30 AM ET

    CO-ORDINATES:   Anik F2 C

                    Transponder 3B

                    Audio subcarrier 6.2 and 6.8

                    Downlink frequency 3820 vertical

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Stacy O'Rourke, (416) 937-5307 (cell),
sorourke@hsf.on.ca; Elissa Freeman, (416) 565-5605 (cell), efreeman@hsf.on.ca;
Jane-Diane Fraser, (613) 569-4361, ext 273, jfraser@hsf.ca; For provincial
media contacts: see "contact us" at www.heartandstroke.ca/media

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