The Heart Check Symbol – one of the first front-of-pack nutrition labels – was created by the American Heart Association in 1995. The idea was to give people a quick visual cue as to foods that were low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Unfortunately, the sugar count was not considered. And thus, ridiculously sweet and unhealthy foods started to appear with the heart check symbol.
No more, says an AHA spokesperson:
The association advocates limiting the amount of discretionary calories in the diet which come from added sugars. Since desserts are a significant source of added sugars, we have elected to close the dessert category to further certification.”
What you need to know:
This is a good development.
Endorsements on food products by respected health organizations are a double edged sword. On one hand, the AHA wanted to promote healthier eating habits. But on the other hand it began to develop a tidy little revenue stream, charging companies thousands of dollars per product endorsement.
That creates an unnecessary tension that could potentially cause the criteria for heart healthy food to be lower than if no money was being paid. Not saying that this is what happens, but it could.
In general, nutrition labeling that is not regulated by the FDA is an opening for various tricks, shenanigans, and nutrition voodoo. Instead of contributing to healthier consumer choices, such labels may actually achieve the opposite.
What to do at the supermarket:
Your best bet is NOT to rely on front-of-pack labels or other health claims, and head straight to the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel. Granted, it’s more time consuming and requires effort, but if you need help – we’re here to provide advice.
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