The Heart Foundation Tick has become a household name since its launch in 2006 and is recognizable by consumers as a food selection aid in identifying healthier choices. Recently however, the Tick has come under scrutiny by one of the leading public health nutritionists, Rosemary Stanton. This has had a domino effect, in that the Heart Foundation Tick has been the subject of several news articles and television segments. Have you been following this?

Stanton acknowledged the valuable role that the National Heart Foundation of Australia plays in improving cardiovascular health, however she commented on the shortcomings of the Heart Foundation Tick program.

She began by discussing the costs on manufacturers, and consequently consumers, as a result of the program. While the Tick is ‘awarded’ or ‘earned’, companies pay to use the Tick. This cost is than passed on to the consumer she explained. She claimed that processed foods bearing the Tick are at an increased cost to products that do not have the Tick, but may have a nutritional profile as good as, or better than, Tick products. Thus, misleading consumers and imparting increased costs.

Furthermore, she voiced her concerns of the Tick criteria, particularly in the variation for different product types. She commented that the criteria for such ‘extra’ foods as pies, sweet biscuits and fast foods may be sound, however, these foods should not be promoted and do ‘not deserve any stamp of credibility.’ In particular, she presents a concerning view of salt and fat criteria and highlights the exclusion of sugar from the Heart Foundation Tick criteria in that they claim ‘added sugar does not differ from sugars in fruit or milk.’

Responding to her claims were the National Heart Foundation of Australias’ James Tatoulis, Lyn M Roberts and Anne-Marie Mackintosh. They began by highlighting that the program is cost-effective and challenges food manufacturers to improve the nutritional adequacy of their products.

They expressed that Tick products can be recommended with confidence as part of a healthy eating pattern. They drew on its popularity within the Australian population as consumers can choose Tick products without having to interpret nutrition information panels and ingredients lists, as the Tick logo certifies that products have met their ‘specified standards of quality and accuracy.’ They provided an in-depth explanation of the licensing and cost for food manufacturers, highlighting the Heart Foundation’s requirements, which include complying with Food Standards Australia New Zealand codes, random auditing and nutrient testing. Furthermore, they emphasize that the fee incurred by manufacturers is used to ensure their ongoing compliance with the program.

They then discussed the development and application of the Tick criteria in that a wide combination of evidence, position statements, policies, technology and law are considered in setting the criteria. Furthermore, they particularly address the lack of criterion around added sugar, in that the existing evidence does not distinguish a relationship between added sugars and specified chronic diseases.

To look at Rosemarys arguement have a look at this article

If you would like to view the Heart Foundations comments, have a look at this article,

and if you would like to see the Heart Foundations note on the issue, you can look at their facebook page.

Both parties provide a well researched and well argued view on the Heart Foundation Tick program. What do you think?

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