The Heart Mark endorsement programme is part of ongoing efforts by the HSFSA to reduce the number of deaths in South Africa from preventable heart disease and stroke. The endorsement programme forms part of a health-enabling environment offering consumers a tool which makes choosing healthier foods easier. Our market research shows that 8 in 10 (or 77%) of consumers instantly recognise the Heart Mark logo, these consumers associate the logo with healthy eating and a sense of credibility.
The Heart Mark Programme was established in the 90’s by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa as an important component of its strategy to help consumers identify healthier food options and at the same time advocate against food manufacturers that flood the market with unhealthy products, which contribute substantially to the rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as diseases of lifestyle such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity. The programme provided manufacturers that complied with the set foods criteria an incentive to use the Heart Mark logo on its products.
The logo is displayed as a red circle with a white heart, fork and knife inside and also with text that states “approved as part of the Heart and Stroke Foundations eating plan”. The logo confirms that the food product is a healthier choice, and can contribute towards reducing and controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other conditions when used as part of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.
Keep in mind that while products may have the Heart Mark, no product should be eaten in excessive amounts or too frequently. Food choices should be part of an overall healthy diet that includes appropriate portion sizes and a variety of different healthy foods. Heart Mark can be used alongside healthy eating guidelines.
Credibly and Assurance
It is very important to note that public guidelines are created by international or local scientific expert committees, often taking years to be reviewed, using strict guided processes. The endorsement programme has been approved by the National Department of Health and nutritional criteria are based on the latest local and international dietary guidelines and recommendations. HSFSA reviews the Heart Mark programme procedures and criteria on a regular basis to ensure it remains up to date with the latest leading local and international dietary guidelines.
One should also remember that people eat food and not nutrients, and therefore the endorsement program looks at the overall healthiness of a food product and not at one single nutrient. in addition to this, the HSFSA supports the Food-based dietary guidelines of South Africa, which is also scientifically based and written specifically for the South African population.
In addition, the HSFSA has to comply with the Nutrient profiling model prescribed by the DOH. The Nutrient Profiling model is an electronic tool based on scientific criteria to categorise foods according to their total nutritional composition. It serves as a screening tool to assess if a food product is eligible to carry a nutrient, ingredient content and/or health claim or not. According to regulation 53(7), no food product shall make any energy, nutrient, ingredient content or health claim unless it qualifies with the screening criteria of the Nutrient Profiling Model. Because the Heart Mark endorsement is seen as a health claim, all products that carry the Heart Mark logo will also need to meet Nutrient Profiling criteria. As part of the robust quality assurance process, the HSFSA conducts regular independent testing on HM endorsed products and also monitor the retail shelves for products that may use the logo inappropriately.
The Heart Mark programme endorses products that meet the criteria and fall within the following categories: