Nature's Mix, a company that makes granola with quinoa that it markets as a "superfood" and that included a nutrition label that claimed quinoa "prevents cancer" has removed the claim after a Marketplace investigation.
The old nutrition label on Nature's Mix Superfood Granola with quinoa listed a series of purported health benefits associated with the grain: energy booster, sleep aid, controls blood sugar, curbs food craving, weight control, lower cholesterol, prevents cancer.
The granola was one of about 100 items CBC's consumer news program purchased to review health claims made on various products with ingredients often marketed as so-called superfoods.
After Marketplace reached out to Nature's Mix, the Cambridge, Ont.-based company wrote that it pulled its Superfood Granola with quinoa from shelves and would review the nutrition labelling on that product. The company said it worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which is responsible for policing health claims on food products, to significantly revise the label, removing all disease-prevention claims.
In an email to CBC News, Nature's Mix owner John Gaya wrote that it was never the company's intention to mislead customers and "it was an honest mistake."
There is no regulation in Canada on what can or can't be called a "superfood," but Health Canada's website does clearly state that food companies cannot make unfounded claims that ingredients in their products prevent serious diseases such as cancer.
Vasantha Rupasinghe studies the nutritional benefits of food at the Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences at Dalhousie University in Halifax and says Health Canada and the CFIA, which share responsibility for ensuring that food labels are accurate, should crack down on use of the term.
"Consumers believe when you see the word 'superfood,' it is better than other regular food," he said. "There is no scientific definition for a 'superfood,'"
- Marketplace wants to see the labels that concern you. Share them on Twitter, Facebook or email us: Marketplace@cbc.ca
Rupasinghe said other countries have stricter rules that help manage public perceptions about what foods are healthy. In the European Union, he said, the word is banned altogether on labels.
The CFIA's Aline Dimitri said consumers must complain to the CFIA before the agency can step in to investigate a particular label.
With regulations that are about half a century old, the labelling process is due for on overhaul, she said.
"Labelling is one of those areas that we're also looking to modernize," Dimitri said.