Ver la versión completa : The food industry's untold secrets - a CTV.ca article

17-nov-2008, 19:16
I have highlighted the most important points, with which I completely agree and, for the matter, no western country's Food Guide actually reflects what we understand to be an evidence base for chronic disease and nutrition (point 4).

The food industry's untold secrets: Check the pantry

Updated Sun. Nov. 2 2008 7:11 AM ET

Andrea Janus, CTV.ca News

Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians may understand nutritional labels on food packages, a recent survey suggests, but do they really know what's good for them and what isn't?

Unhealthy eating habits are partly to blame for the spike in obesity rates in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2004, 5.5 million Canadian adults, or 23 per cent of the population aged 18 or older, were obese, up from 14 per cent in 1978/79.

Add to that figure the 26 per cent of Canadian kids between the ages of two and 17 who are considered obese or overweight, and it seems this country has a problem with food.

But is it entirely consumers' fault?

The industry, as well as some health advocacy groups, does not always convey accurate information about their products, which can confuse consumers and propel them to unwittingly make unhealthy food choices.

Here, then, are some secrets that the food industry doesn't want you to know about

1. Health Canada regulates nutrition information on food labels. However, some claims are invented by marketers just to make the products more appealing to consumers, experts say.

"You have to look beyond the front of the package that may have a healthy sounding name or a claim like, 'made with real fruit' and you've got to read the fine print," nutrition expert Leslie Beck said in a recent appearance on CTV's Canada AM. "The only way to know is to look at the Nutrition Facts box and the ingredient list."

The "real fruit" in some products is actually very low down on the ingredient list, Beck said, which means there is actually very little of it.

2. The words, "low in fat" or "low in calories" do not make a food more healthy. Brian Wansink, who is on leave from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," calls these words "health halos." These words lead consumers to assume the foods have health benefits "that go far beyond what's rational," Wansink told CTV.ca.

In fact, foods that are low in fat usually have only about 11 per cent fewer calories because the fat that is taken out it is often replaced with sugar, Wansink said.

Consumers often eat too many of these products, which then leads to weight gain.

3. The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check label, which is found on a number of packaged foods found at the grocery store, is supposed to be "a simple tool to help you make food choices that are part of a healthy diet," according to the Foundation's website.

But Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, says the symbol appears on many products that contain refined flours, red meats and high levels of sodium and sugar, all dietary factors that contribute to a number of diseases.

Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University, recently wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that such front-of-package labels "confuse consumers and distract them from making sensible food choices."

4. Canada's Food Guide, recently revamped by Health Canada, "doesn't reflect what we understand to be an evidence base for chronic disease and nutrition," Freedhoff said.

It's less that the Guide promotes bad eating habits, Freedhoff said. It's more that it does not warn of the potential health problems caused by consuming foods such as red meat, which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

"I don't think that the number three beef-producing country in the world is going to be willing to come out and say, regardless of the evidence base, that we should be eating less red meat," Freedhoff said.

5. Some consumer advocacy groups that claim to defend the right of consumers to make their own food choices are actually funded by the food industry.

For instance, the Center for Consumer Freedom claims on its website that it's a "nonprofit organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices."

However, according to a review published in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine, the Center for Media and Democracy has found that it is funded through donations from companies such as Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods and Wendy's.

6. Children are still getting messages that support unhealthy food choices despite a voluntary initiative by 16 food and beverage brands, such as Coca-Cola Canada, Hershey Canada and McDonald's Restaurants of Canada, to promote healthier lifestyle choices to children under 12.

Under the Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, the companies agreed to, among other principles, devote at least 50 per cent of advertising aimed at children under 12 to either promote healthy products or deliver healthy lifestyle messages.

However, a survey of advertising on networks that broadcast children's programming showed that more than 90 per cent of food commercials touted unhealthy products.

7. Government agencies, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), advocate for the interests of government, industry and the public, which leads to a conflict of interest, Freedhoff says.

"It's this non-arm's length relationship, so it makes it challenging to expect any of them to create rules that have enough teeth to make a big difference," Freedhoff says.

8. Studies show that when research is sponsored by a company that has a financial stake in the results, the results often favour the company.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston found that no industry funded studies conducted on soft drinks, juice and milk had outcomes that were unfavourable to the product.

In fact, studies sponsored solely by food or beverage companies "were four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favourable to the financial interests of the sponsoring company than articles which were not sponsored by food or drinks companies," the study said.

At the end of the day, the experts agree, consumers need to ensure they are making healthy food choices for themselves and their families.

As Freedhoff said: "I don't think that we should be looking to (food manufacturers) to be socially responsible for the health of ourselves or our children."