Q: What does the Health Check symbol mean when I see it on foods?
A: The Health Check symbol on food packages and restaurant menu items indicates that the food or menu item has met nutrient criteria developed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s registered dietitians and a Technical Advisory Committee made up of nutrition experts. Canada’s Food Guide is used to develop the criteria for the Health Check program. Food companies are not involved in setting the criteria of the Health Check program.
Q: How exactly are Health Check grocery products and menu items evaluated?
A: Each participating product and menu item is evaluated against nutrient criteria developed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s registered dietitians based on recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide. The criteria include both nutrients people should limit such as total fat, saturated fat, trans fats, sodium, and sugar, as well as nutrients we want to encourage people to consume more of such as fibre, calcium and vitamins and minerals. A number of months ago we announced changes to our criteria which are summarized in the nutrient criteriasection of this web site.
Random audits are carried out annually by an independent lab to make sure products and menu items continue to meet the nutrient criteria.
Q: Does Health Check consider sodium/salt when evaluating products?
A: Yes. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s registered dieticians evaluate sodium values for all categories of grocery products and menu items as a way to help consumers make healthy choices. Reducing the amount of sodium in Canadians’ diets is one of the priorities of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Health Check is committed to working with food companies and restaurant operators to reduce the amount of sodium in foods found in our grocery stores and restaurants.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation was one of 17 leading health organizations in Canada to endorse a national Sodium Policy Statement developed by Blood Pressure Canada with the goal of reducing the daily sodium consumption of adult Canadians to between 1200 mg and 2300 mg by January 2020. The Canadian Government estimates the average Canadian consumes more than 3100 mg of sodium daily, making the goal of between 1200 mg and 2300 mg a significant reduction.
Q: What is Health Check doing to reduce sodium/salt in our diet?
A: Sodium reduction is a priority for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Health Check is actively working to reduce salt in products now, and has been since the program began. Our revised sodium criteria levels reflect this commitment. A number of Health Check products already meet the revised criteria and restaurants are actively working on new menu items that will meet the new sodium criteria. All companies well need to reduce their sodium levels to continue to participate in the Health Check program. Health Check plays a unique role in helping Canadians make healthy choices by working directly with restaurants and food manufacturers to reduce the sodium in our food supply.
Q: What are Health Check’s criteria for sodium/salt for restaurants?
A: Changes to the sodium levels for large restaurant entrees were announced in December 2007 and must be in place by existing menu items by December 2009. All new menu items entering the Health Check program must meet the lower sodium levels immediately. The new sodium criteria is 960 mg which represents approximately a 25% reduction in sodium levels. If a restaurant cannot meet the new criteria by the deadline, they must leave the Health Check program. The sodium criteria are different for each food and menu category. A summary of the criteria is available for the grocery program and for the restaurant program.