Why red tick makes me cross
is underway, with two opposing teams slugging it out over whether frozen pizza or paleo is the way to go.
In the red corner is the Heart Foundation, which has come under fire for applying its little tick of approval to everything from Milo to mayo to frozen pizza.
In the blue corner is Pete Evans, whose latest book, contains 130 “delicious paleo recipes for every day”.
Paleo, just in case you’re not up with the latest food fads, involves applying Paleolithic principles to the way we eat. This means cutting out processed foods, sugars, starches and dairy foods, and eating a lot more unprocessed fat, fibrous vegies, eggs, nuts and seeds.
The spat started when the Heart Foundation, along with the Dietitians Association of Australia, came out swinging in opposition to the paleo diet. Both highly regarded groups oppose diets that suggest eliminating food groups, especially healthy ones such as whole grains and dairy foods.
This angered Evans, who is a self-proclaimed paleo “warrior”– and, let’s face it, has a new book to promote. Why, he asked, was the Heart Foundation giving its red tick to foods that are highly processed, and high in fat and sugar?
Why, the foundation said, was a celebrity chef promoting a diet that is dangerous? I have to say I’m with Pete. For 25 years now, the Heart Foundation’s ubiquitous tick has been regarded as an easy way to pick healthy food without reading the fine print. However, I do believe it has truly lost its way. The tick has now been applied to 2000 products including McCain’s ham and pineapple pizza singles, lemon cheesecake-flavoured yoghurt, pouring custard, ice cream, creamy chicken simmer sauces, sausage rolls and meat pies.
We now learn that the tick doesn’t mean a product is healthy, but is just “not as unhealthy as some other products of the same type”.
A tick on the front doesn’t mean the product is actually good for you. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a dietitian to encourage you to eat many of the convenience-food products given the red tick.
For instance, Kellogg’s raspberry and apple K-Time Twists have 35g of sugar and 6.6g of saturated fat, and Four’N Twenty Lite meat pies have just 30 per cent meat, 7.5g of fat and are 800 kilojules.
The foundation says it has been working with food companies to help them make healthier choices – but I say rewarding unhealthy food is hardly the right approach.
You would have thought the foundation had learnt something from the outcry following revelations it accepted $300,000 from McDonald’s to approve its healthy choice menu.
The foundation’s CEO Mary Barry says it is now reviewing the tick program in light of the rollout of the voluntary star-rating system for food.
It should rethink the program more broadly in light of criticism from Pete Evans, who has enormous clout with the food-buying public.
Although he’s the kind of guy whose face is always prominently featured on the cover of his books, Evans has a well-deserved reputation for cooking simple, healthy food.
Granted, many of his paleo recipes are a little too wacky for me – with ingredients like cashew cheese, goji berries and activated almonds. I also tend to agree that there is no need to eliminate whole grains, milk or cheese if you keep things in moderation.
However, give me Evans’ meatballs and vegie spaghetti, or beef and broccoli stir-fry over Four’N Twenty pies and McCain chunky chips any day.
I think it’s outrageous that the foundation criticises Australians for not eating “high quality diets in line with national guidelines” and yet gives some of the worst culprits its stamp of approval.
Ask yourself: how can an organisation trying to keep us healthy approve products such as the McCain pizzas, made from manufactured ham, thickeners, flavourings, preservatives and gelling agents?
In total, the pizzas have around 40 ingredients, many of which most of us wouldn’t recognise as food.
At this stage, Evans seems to be winning the public relations war, with more than 1 million people viewing his Facebook post attacking the Heart Foundation. He has also been promoting a change.org petition urging people to Boycott the Tick, which has around 35,000 supporters and is growing strongly.
In the end, no doubt his bank balance will be the biggest winner – just watch his book race up the bestseller lists.