Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: August-September 2012

August 29, 2012
By Laura Aiken

You only need to look as far as the statistics page of the Canadian
Heart and Stroke Foundation website to see that many of us Canucks are
erring on the unhealthy side.

You only need to look as far as the statistics page of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation website to see that many of us Canucks are erring on the unhealthy side. Almost 60 per cent of us are considered overweight or obese. About 40 per cent of Canadians have high blood cholesterol. Half of adults only eat half the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables per day. More than 85 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women exceed the recommended upper limit for sodium intake. Nearly half of Canadians over 12 years of age are considered physically inactive. It should be noted that despite all this, the rates of heart disease and stroke have steadily declined over the past 40 years, down 70 per cent from 1956 to 2002. However, the costs of Canadian health care are skyrocketing, with billions attributed to excess weight and inactivity alone.

Fingers are being pointed. People are wondering who’s to blame and the food industry has been painted as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, disguising fat, salt and sugar as nutritious food. The federal government released its voluntary guidelines for sodium reduction in June, and companies who fail to meet these lofty goals will likely further look like villains. The BAC noted in an e-newsletter that the association considers the proposed targets unachievable by the industry, so it is an uphill battle indeed. The food purveyors are the problem; point the fingers. 

All of this is really part and parcel of exactly what outgoing BAC chair Pete Plaizier said in his comments at the annual general meeting on May 16 (which were synopsized in the BAC’s July newsletter that ran in Bakers Journal): “Food consumption is no longer seen as the solution to our health problems – it is viewed as the cause of them…No longer can we sit back and rely on others to speak on our behalf about bread’s contribution to good health or say it is OK to indulge oneself with a brownie or cookie as part of a healthy lifestyle. All of us need to speak up and be heard. We make good food – food that is to be enjoyed – not demonized. And we need to start speaking up soon before others permanently convince consumers otherwise.”

I second this sentiment completely. As a baker, you cannot be complacent about the fact that North American governments appear to be taking a “war on drugs” approach to their people’s consumption of food. Bakers must sit up and ensure that their products are not treated as the “drugs” in the health war.

To do this, you must position yourself as the expert that you are. Your website can be more than a place to share delightful images and company news. You could set up a section with links showing the benefits of many of your ingredients, such as the antioxidants in chocolate or blueberries. The information is out there in abundance, you only need to gather it. You could support an event such as a marathon in your community. Be transparent and unafraid, for you’re not the villain in this piece. State your intentions loud and clear. Remind your customers in many ways that bread enrichment has been a huge factor in the decrease of birth defects and other vitamin deficiencies. Remind people that our mental health needs a cookie now and again too. Cultivate and educate your most loyal customers. It only takes a small influential group to spread a lot of word in this digital age.

Plaizier is right: quality will not speak for itself these days. Be a leading example by speaking for the joy in food and the joy in life.

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