Health Check is Canada's only third party, not-for-profit, national food information program. It was created and administered by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The program aims to help Canadians make informed and healthy eating decisions through education, awareness campaigns and the placement of the Health Check logo on the packaging of a food product or restaurant menu item that meets specific requirements.
The Health Check program is a voluntary program corporate companies may choose to participate in. Due to being a voluntary program and not all healthy products in the grocery store or on a menu will have this symbol. Currently there are over 1600 products that have the Health Check symbol. With over 20,000 products in a typical grocery store, having a visible symbol that is easy to distinguish a healthy product from a potentially non-healthy product adds convenience and confidence in healthy decision making for Canadians. A consumer research study of Canadian shoppers indicated 8 out of 10 shoppers have knowledge of Health Check and 90% of Canadians have seen the Health Check symbol on food packaging at the store.
The logo is a white check mark over a red circle. There are Health Check certified products in all categories of Canada's Food Guide. The program also provides health eating information to Canadians in a variety of vehicles and using various media.
From June 2003 to April 2009 the Health Check awareness has increased 30%, and nearly 75% of Canadians trust Health Check and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada as a credible source of food and nutrition.
To participate in the Health Check program, and earn a Health Check symbol, companies and restaurants must submit their product or menu item to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The organization's registered dietitians evaluate and analyze the product or menu item. If the item complies with program standards, it may use the Health Check symbol. The company or restaurant must pay a reserved annual fee, used to help cover the costs of operating the program, developing educational tools, and educating Canadians on healthy eating. The Health Check program is not a fundraising program for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
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Products that qualify for a Health Check symbol must meet category-specific nutrient criteria: The amount of nutrients required is determined from the Canada Food Guide.
More specifically the criteria is based on nutrients Canadians should incorporate into their diet such as fibre and vitamins, and also those they should eat less of such as sodium, fat and sugar. The grocery items are divided into categories related to the Canadian Food Guide food groups which include: Vegetable and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, Meat and Alternatives plus Oil and Fat. There is also a category for food that incorporate more than one of these called Combination Foods.
The Health Check website has a list of criteria for the products, some examples include:
Vegetable and Fruit
Fruit juice must be:
- made from 100% fruit juice with no added sugar
- an excellent source of vitamin C (50%) or vitamin A (25%) or folate (25%) or source of fibre (2 grams)
Frozen and Canned Vegetables, both seasoned and sauced, must have
Breakfast cereal must have:
- no more than three grams of fat
- at least two grams of fibre
- no more than 240 milligrams of sodium
- no more than six grams of sugar (excluding sugars from pieces of fruit) except if four grams or more of fibre
- no more than five percent of total fat from trans fat
Milk and Alternatives
Yogurt must have:
- no more than two percent milk fat
- at least fifteen percent of the daily recommended calcium
- no more than 140 milligrams of sodium
- no added sugar
Meat and Alternatives
- no more than ten percent fat
- no added salt or sodium
- no more than five percent of fat from trans fat
An independent company randomly evaluates the items, on an annual basis, to ensure that products indeed meet the criteria.
Many Canadian restaurants participate in the Health Check program:
- Aroma Espresso Bar
- B.C. Ferries Inc
- Boston Pizza
- Cara Operations
- Casey’s Bar and Grill
- Druxy's Famous Deli Sandwiches
- Extreme Pita
- Healthy Heart Food Delivery
- Husky House
- Pizza Hut
- Pizza Pizza
- Second Cup
- Swiss Chalet
- Triple O’s Restaurant
- Wok Box Fresh Asian Kitchen
- White Spot
A CBC Marketplace report filmed in 2007 was critical of the program, showing some Health Check certified products with sodium and sugar levels that were beyond the recommended levels of other food-rating systems. The program has evolved in the years since this CBC piece aired in January 2008. In 2007 and 2008 significant changes were made to the sodium criteria resulting in reductions of between 25% – 70% in a number of food groups. Categories have been removed in the past few years including cookies, cakes, certain snacks, desserts and French fries.
- Health Check website
- CBC Marketplace report
- Canada Food Guide
- Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
- Canada Food Guide
- Ontario Health Promotion E-Bulletin, 19 August 2011 - OHPE Bulletin 720, Volume 2011, No. 720 | Ontario Health Promotion E-Bulletin
- Find a Product | Heart&Stroke Health Check Program
- Health Check™ - Designed to help you make healthy food choices - Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
- FAQ | Heart&Stroke Health Check Program
- Helping You Eat Well | Heart&Stroke Health Check Program