This entry is taken from a post on my Tumblr blog this morning.
Earlier this week in my Sustainable & Responsible Marketing course, we discussed the issue of food labeling and watched a documentary on the CBC’s Marketplace about the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Healthy Check labels.
I was astounded to hear that companies PAY to have this label on their products. I quickly gathered some research and looked into the site. (Have a look at their criteria here). Only recently, in September 2011, was the criteria to purchase a label modified to include “for the first time, trans fat and sugar…changes were also made for fat and fibre.”
Another alternative looked at, was The Guiding Stars. This approach is much more wholistic, in my opinion, and is more objective.
This morning, I read an article from the Globe and Mail about the same issue. In the article, a program called Facts Up Front is mentioned. I had a look of it and still don’t agree with it very much. Sure, it’s a voluntary initiative and it’s already being done by some food manufacturers, I’m just not fully convinced it does that much. Have you not seen the labels on your latest Kellogg’s cereal box?
So now what? In my opinion, if a product is going to have a label, it needs to address its audience. Busy mothers, who may not understand or have time to look at nutrition labels need some way to identify, quickly, what is “healthy.” (Even this definition needs to be regularly checked). Students or immigrants, who are unfamiliar with all the terms on a label. Seniors, who can hardly read the tiny print on the packing. I mean, % of daily value, grams of fibre, trans fat free, etc. None of that means anything if you cannot interpret it properly.
Perhaps both consumers and governments need to take a stand on this. On one hand, we, as consumers, need to be smarter. We should be responsible to educate ourselves with this health knowledge and learn to take care of our bodies. Meanwhile, on the other hand, governments need to make this material more accessible and promote its education. Maybe through communication that is easier to understand and caters to a diverse audience.
Any idea is up for discussion, but knowing there is this issue, is the first step. Let’s be honest – we’re so busy making a living and trying to have an actual “life” with any free time we have. At the end of the day, the common person is not going to have time to look into these details. Now is it in the government’s best interest to invest more in our education or to make us more aware? Think about it. I end with a couple of factors: obesity rates, level of academia, lifestyles of citizens, related waste issues, number of citizen requiring extended health care. It’s an entire system!
I’d be interested to know your thoughts. I hope you enjoyed the read.
(Thanks, IMPACT! I am now living and breathing the concept of Systems Thinking.)