With so many food products claiming health benefits, one can’t help but wonder if the consumer is getting what they think they are getting…
It is vital to be aware that although logos and endorsements are in theory designed to help consumers make informed decisions, this may not always hold true in practice. The bottom line is, food manufacturers, trade groups and health organisations are all competing for the consumers’ attention and ultimately what they want is to sell their product..
This is the message coming from the American Institute of Cancer Research, released in their October 2007 newsletter, which applies to South Africa as well.
Note the following about food logos:
1. Nutritional criteria that icons are based on vary greatly, for example, one icon or symbol may focus on total fat content but ignore type of fat or it might take into account saturated fat and ignore high levels of polyunsaturated fat. These inconsistencies could result in incorrect food choices and be potentially harmful to one’s health..
Another logo may focus on GI but may not necessarily take into account the nutrient density.
Another may claim that a product is “Lite”, which could refer to fat content or sugar content without taking into account the complete nutrient profile of the product or, for example, how much preservatives it contains.
2. Many organisations charge a fee to display their logo (sometimes a hefty fee) and some smaller manufacturers don’t have the means to pay, whilst others may go to great lengths to display a specific logo on their product to enhance sales.
Just because a food displays some nutritious qualities doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice overall. For example, a product claiming to be “made with whole grains” may also be loaded with sugar, fat or sodium. Shop with one’s eyes wide open! Foods with and without logos may be equally nutritious or unhealthy, even though they don’t display the same – or perhaps any – nutrition icon.
Need more information:
Download the attached document and ask us about your favourite product. Subscribe to our website to view this information in our HEALTH TOOLS section.