Health

Heart foundation's fruit gummies endorsement angers expert

A Canadian obesity expert says the Heart and Stroke Foundation should be ashamed of its nutritional endorsement of a gummy fruit snack, saying it's no substitute for fresh fruit.

Handful of SunRype Fruit Source Bites has as much sugar as a Twix bar, obesity expert says

A Canadian obesity expert says the Heart and Stroke Foundation should be ashamed of its nutritional endorsement of a gummy fruit snack, saying it's no substitute for fresh fruit.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, launched a YouTube challenge against the Health Check program's nutritional stamp of approval on SunRype Fruit Source Bites, a snack made of concentrated fruit puree.

Obesity expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is using his blog and YouTube to ask the Heart and Stroke Foundation to apologize for putting its nutritional stamp of approval on a brand of fruit gummies. (Courtesy Dr. Yoni Freedhoff)

The company touts them as a healthy alternative to fresh fruit and paid nearly $20,000 for the use of the Health Check logo.

"This product is as close to pure sugar as a product can get," Freedhoff says in the video.

Freedhoff says 17 of the gummy bites contain the equivalent amount of sugar as a Twix candy bar. By weight, it is 80 per cent sugar and sugar is responsible for 96 per cent of its total calories.

He's worried the Health Check logo on the products will convince parents they're a good fruit substitute. He calls the products sugar, water and marketing.

"The Heart and Stroke Foundation should be ashamed of themselves. The Heart and Stroke Foundation's dietitians should be mortified."

The science around sugar and nutrition is complex, said Terry Dean, a spokesman for the Health Check program.

"Today these products meet our criteria. As the world of nutrition evolves, they may or may not," Dean said.

Dean noted the Heath Check program is reviewing its thinking on sugar, and acknowledges that fresh fruit should be the first choice.

In 2012, the U.S. Center for Science in the Public Interest said General Mills agreed to improve its labelling for Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups to resolve a lawsuit regarding the implication that fruit gummies and similar products are healthful.

With files from CBC's Pauline Dakin

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