Labelling program at CANEX highlights healthy choices

Capt(N) Steve Waddell and CPO1 Gino Spinelli joined CANEX staff Tracy Horner and Sara Johnson, and Health Promotion’s Allie Jones in handing out healthy food choices to patrons of Naden’s CANEX outlet Jan. 11. The food items are now labelled with “Benefit” identifiers as part of a new healthy food program at the retail store. Photo: Peter Mallett, Lookout Newspaper

Capt(N) Steve Waddell and CPO1 Gino Spinelli joined CANEX staff Tracy Horner and Sara Johnson, and Health Promotion’s Allie Jones in handing out healthy food choices to patrons of Naden’s CANEX outlet Jan. 11. The food items are now labelled with “Benefit” identifiers as part of a new healthy food program at the retail store. Photo: Peter Mallett, Lookout Newspaper

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A new food labelling initiative designed to assist Canadian Armed Forces personnel in making healthier food choices when shopping at CANEX stores across the country has been launched.

Canada’s military store teamed up with the Health Promotion wing of Personnel Support Programs (PSP) for the kickoff off its BeneFit program; at CFB Esquimalt Base Commander Capt(N) Steve Waddell launched the program Jan. 11.

The BeneFit labelling system helps customers determine a food product’s nutritional value based on protein, fibre, vitamins, calcium, calories, sodium and fat.

“Having healthy food options has always been a big concern of military members and others who work here at the base, and this latest initiative is a step in the right direction,” said Esquimalt CANEX Manager Sara Johnson.

BeneFit was developed by PSP Health Promotion dietitians Renée Racine, who works at CFB Gagetown, and Julie Riopel-Meunier of CFB Valcartier, and employs a points system to identify healthier options. It’s all part of an effort to help CANEX shoppers quickly and easily identify the nutritional value of foods and beverages sold on store shelves and vending machines. Foods that meet the nutritional requirements have the BeneFit logo affixed to them or the shelves.

The program is based on a similar initiative initiated by PSP staff in 2014 in the lunchroom of the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruitment School at the Saint-Jean Garrison in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, says Michael Spivock, Senior Manager of Health Promotion Delivery with Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS). 

“Health Promotion staff noticed diners were really a captive audience to the marketers of unhealthy products in their own lunch room, but were eventually able to obtain 100 percent healthy food in their vending machine based on collaboration with national vending machine company Ventrex,” says Spivock. “And based on this development, the idea for BeneFit was hatched.”

Spivock says the BeneFit program gives CAF members objective, evidence-based information to make healthy choices. It also helps CANEX shoppers avoid the false health claims on the labels of some food products.

“It is not uncommon to see products in today’s world that have become victims of ‘health washing’ where marketers will tout one very small benefit to make their product look healthy, and shoppers are often faced with a retail environment that is not necessarily conducive to that healthy lifestyle they are seeking,” said Spivock.

To address this problem, PSP dietitians broke down food sold at CANEX stores across Canada into 27 categories, from salty snacks such as chips and nuts, to carbonated beverages, yogurt, cereal and energy bars. They assessed the ingredients in the products from fats, sodium, fibre, sugar content and protein. Foods determined by the dietitians to be healthy options scored higher points totals and will have the BeneFit logo affixed to shelves and displays.

Johnson pointed to a lineup of about a dozen products sold in the Esquimalt store that have the logo affixed to them, but said other products in the store will be categorized and labelled in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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