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Food Industry offers Consumers a Solution in fight against Obesity with Health Check Program

Date: 12-15-2004

December 15, 2004: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC), along with other national health organizations, has sounded alarm bells about the growing epidemic of obesity in Canada. While experts agree that healthy eating combined with regular physical activity is the key to long term weight control, almost half of Canadians are losing the battle of the bulge.

Last February, the HSFC’s Annual Report Card on Canadians’ Health 2004 revealed that, “the increasing number of overweight and obese Canadians now poses one of the greatest threats ever to public health in Canada.” Among the disturbing findings of the report card is that 47 percent of Canadians are overweight or obese and therefore have an increased risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

Although no one solution exists, the food industry plays a critical role in the nutritional health of Canadians. Offering a variety of healthy food choices is an important step, since approximately three quarters of purchase decisions are made in the grocery store. With the Health Check program food companies are providing consumers with the reassurance that a particular food is a healthy choice, meets specific nutrient criteria based on Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and has been reviewed by one of the most trusted health organizations in Canada.Health Check participants are leading the industry by example. More than 90 brands have joined the program, with more than 400 products now available in grocery stores across Canada.

Food packaging is the number one source of nutrition information for Canadians. The new nutritional labeling regulations, which come into effect by December 12, 2005, will require changes to product labels for most packaged foods. Consumers will see standard information about calories and 13 key nutrients, but may not understand what it all means. Health Check is encouraging manufacturers to add the symbol to those products that fit the program’s nutrient criteria when the new Nutrition Facts table is being introduced. While the new label will tell consumers what’s in the food, the Health Check symbol and the explanatory message will highlight a product’s nutritional benefits and tell them why it is a healthy choice. According to a report on Food Information Programs published in the Canadian Journal of Dietary Practice and Research (summer 2002), information logos are three times more popular than detailed nutrition information for helping to select between food products. The Health Check symbol reassures consumers that they’ve made a healthy choice.

Throughout January and early February, Health Check will be particularly visible in more than 2900 grocery stores with special signage at shelf level and in grocery carts. Health Check is a simple tool that cuts through the clutter and helps consumers navigate the grocery store for healthy choices – throughout the year.

For information about the Health Check program, contact:
 
Danielle Côté at (613) 737-9432 
dfcote@bkthealth.com

Check these numbers!
Health Check conducts market research to gauge consumer awareness and understanding of the Health Check program and to measure how well the program is performing. Here are some recent findings:

  • 6 in 10 grocery shoppers are aware of Health Check.*
  • Of those aware of Health Check, almost two-thirds of shoppers have seen the logo on food packaging.*
  • 8 in 10 consumers say they can trust Health Check because it comes from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.**
  • 68% of respondents agree with the statement: “I can rely on Health Check to help me make healthy food choices.”**
  • 64% of those surveyed by Ipsos-Reid indicate they are more likely to purchase a food or beverage from a grocery store if it bears the Health Check logo.***

*Lynn Plunkett and Associates, NFO CFGroup, February 2004.
**Lynn Plunkett and Associates, NFO CFGroup, June 2003.
***Ipsos-Reid Obesity poll. September 2003.

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