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Ticking off sugar

Ticking off sugar

The Heart Foundation’s Tick programme continues to evolve its trusted front-of-pack labelling system with its latest review.

Deb Sue, Tick Programme Manager, says “We indicated earlier in the year our intention to re-introduce a sugar criterion into relevant Tick categories, where previously only an energy criterion existed. This change is now coming into effect.”

Today’s changes emphasise the Heart Foundation’s commitment to providing shoppers with a quick and easy way to identify healthier food choices for them and their families.

The move reflects recommendations by the World Health Organisation, the Ministry of Health, and aligns with the Heart Foundation’s nutrition messages.

The new sugar criterion effects two categories deemed of highest relevance: breakfast cereals, and nut and seed bars.

A sugar criterion will be added to other relevant categories as they come up for review.

Tick-approved products that no longer meet the strict nutrition criteria will have 12 months to reformulate their products in order to continue using the Tick.

“Working together with food manufacturers to ensure products meet nutrition criteria is in the best interests of the consumer. It’s a win-win for all parties,” Deb says.

Along with the re-introduction of a sugar criterion, the Tick programme has chosen to exit out of the cereal-based bars altogether.

“We have made the decision to remove the Tick from cereal-based bars, which includes some muesli bars, as these products are not consistent with other Heart Foundation nutrition messages.

“These products tend to be high in energy, sugar and saturated fat and don’t offer much in the way of quality nutrition. Whereas nut and seed bars tend to be more wholesome with higher levels of protein, healthy oils and fibre.”

Deb says that while the re-introduction of a sugar criterion is a positive move for the Tick programme, the Heart Foundation wants to shift the focus from assessing foods based on individual nutrients, such as sugar, to looking at foods as a whole.

”It’s important to remember that we eat food, not just nutrients. Excluding certain foods based on one nutrient, such as sugar, can mean you are missing out on a range of other valuable nutrients that food contains”.

The Tick programme is New Zealand’s only front of pack labelling system that independently audits – through regular testing and monitoring – the nutrition content of the foods it endorses.

“We’re committed to continually improving the Tick programme to keep it relevant to Kiwi shoppers,” says Deb.

She says that while a well-balanced diet consisting of plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, nuts and seeds and healthy oils is ideal, the reality is that Kiwis often buy packaged processed goods.

“By encouraging food manufacturers to produce products under Tick’s strict nutrition guidelines, we are ensuring those shoppers who are going to choose packaged foods can be confident that the Tick indicates a healthier choice compared to similar products.”

The Heart Foundation introduced Two Ticks in May 2014. Two Ticks aims to help shoppers identify core foods for a healthy diet. Two Ticks looks at food as a whole and has a sugar criterion in relevant categories. There are now over 100 products registered with Two Ticks with more products to come.

ENDS

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