Why red tick makes me cross

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER STO -

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.

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