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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Heart Foundation Tick

Sugar. After demolishing my 6 inch sub and 2 ridiculously good cookies from Subway, I'm going to start this post by contradicting the meal I just ate.

Today, the Green Party posted on their Facebook page that the Heart Foundation refused to withhold support for a children's lunchbox snack on the basis that there is no evidence or studies to show that sugar causes heart disease. The snack comprised of 44% sugar, yet was endorsed with a Heart foundation tick.

Admittedly, I can see the point of the Heart Foundation, if the foundation is premised on the view that it endorses any foods that are not proven to contribute to heart disease. But is that the role of the heart foundation?

In my view, this is questionable. Presumably, food product companies have their products endorsed by the Heart Foundation because consumers purchase such products on the assumption that the heart foundation tick indicates the product is healthy. For the more informed consumer, they know this is bogus. But where did the assumption come from? Probably,the way in which food companies promote their products as having the healthy heart tick and unclear objectives of the Heart Foundation. So herein lies the issue. Should the heart foundation endorse all food products that are known to be good for your heart,that is, products that promote heart health and products that are known not to be harmful to either heart or general health; or should it endorse any foods in which there is no evidence that those products are bad for your heart even if there are proven health implications elsewhere.

In my opinion, the Heart Foundation should endorse foods that promote a healthy heart and foods that do not contribute to other serious health implications that may indirectly cause heart problems. It is indisputable that sugar plays a role in both diabetes and obesity. These health conditions are on the increase in NZ and are both known to correlate to heart disease.I think it is irresponsible of the Heart Foundation to apply its market reputation to products (which is does so for a fee)that contribute to serious health issues, especially for children.

In fact, I would go further to say, that food products ought to have health warnings on the packaging. Is this to punish those companies? No. Its to better inform the consumer about the choices they make in respect of the food they purchase for themselves and or their children. If tobacco companies are to be held accountable for the harm they cause consumers,then surely food companies ought to be held to the same standard.

I'm not suggesting that food companies be subjected to 'plain packaging laws' only that they provide more information for consumers to make informed choices.