Misleading claims offering health, beauty and brand new lifestyles

Almost like the snake oil salesman of yesteryear, food companies want to claim that their products have health benefits which, at best, are misleading.

Numbers of food companies are promoting fraudulent solutions for health problems or cures for ailments.

The shelves of every supermarket are loaded, for example, with products that allegedly can reduce weight, something to lower cholesterol, maybe a cream that will keep skin young looking, perhaps even an infant’s cereal that will enhance development.

Consumers, therefore, hope that if they purchase and use these kinds of articles, that will make up for all the junk food that they regularly consume. Most of the population is becoming health conscious, so there is a big, growing market for those products.

There is a fine line between foods and drugs, so companies should try to be careful. Yet, sales of so-called functional foods have been expanding at twice the rate of regular, packaged foods.

Large companies are making big bets in order to participate in this market, which is becoming much larger. They are broadening their product line and taking over junior companies whose product lines will meet the demand for such commodities.

The Canadian Ministry of Health has a marketing board that is supposed to be regulating sales of these kinds of merchandise, but so far it has accomplished very little. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing the health claims of cereal makers, but here in Canada, not much has been proposed along these lines.

Big chain stores continue to promote products that, it is claimed, will improve looks or provide health benefits, but no one has yet to hear of any “cease and desist” order to curb goods that make such questionable claims.

As to be expected, many in this industry are fighting back, stating that their products are perfectly safe, that adding iron or calcium or reducing salt can do no harm and may be beneficial.

In any event, who is to say that such changes are not helpful?

The limit must be held against companies that state that their products provide specific benefits, such as really lowering blood pressure or reducing cholesterol.

What is lacking is clear, honest labelling.

Greater scrutiny by our Ministry of Health is long overdue. Meanwhile, probably more important for the general public is the promotion of a healthier lifestyle.



Bruce Whitestone