Walmart to label healthier food as "Great For You"

Tue Feb 7, 2012 12:17am EST

The Wal-Mart logo is pictured on cash registers at a new store in Chicago, January 24, 2012. REUTERS/John Gress

The Wal-Mart logo is pictured on cash registers at a new store in Chicago, January 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/John Gress

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(Reuters) - After a lengthy debate, Walmart decided that eggs are indeed healthy.

Eggs are among the foods getting a new "Great For You" icon from the world's largest retailer as it tries to convince shoppers that they can make healthy, low-cost choices when picking out food at its U.S. stores.

The icon comes just over a year after Walmart, the main U.S. arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc, said that it would look for ways to improve the nutritional value of the food it sells and make healthier fare less expensive.

Walmart is the largest seller of food in the United States, and food accounts for more than half of the chain's annual sales, so any changes it makes in its food aisles can have a ripple effect on chains such as Kroger Co, Supervalu Inc and Safeway Inc.

To earn Walmart's stamp of approval, foods must meet specific thresholds. Fresh fruits and vegetables qualify, as do lean cuts of meat. Brown rice makes the cut, while white rice does not. Skim and 1 percent milk qualify, while 2 percent and whole milk do not.

"There are no candy bars," said Andrea Thomas, the company's senior vice president of sustainability.

The company spoke with food and nutrition experts, health organizations, government entities and others to decide on its criteria.

"We had a nice, long debate about eggs," said Thomas.

While some people felt that eggs should not be on the list because of the cholesterol they contain, she said, others argued that they are a good, low-cost source of protein. After hearing the various reasons, Walmart decided that eggs made the cut.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet introduced a standardized seal to show foods that meet certain health criteria.

"At the point in time that there is a standardized label that comes out from the FDA then we'll be happy to make a switch," said Thomas. "At this point we feel like our customers need help right now; we don't know how long that's going to take."

At first, Walmart's green and white "Great For You" icon will appear on signs for fresh fruits and vegetables and then pop up on packages of about 20 percent to 25 percent of the company's Great Value brand food and on some of its Marketside items. Brand-name foods may also qualify for the seal.

Walmart's efforts also include lowering the amount of sodium and added sugars in some of its food. The company said it cut 15 percent of the sodium in Great Value ketchup, an average of 15 percent of the sodium in Great Value canned vegetables such as corn, green beans and carrots, and more than 70 percent of the sodium in fresh steaks, roasts and certain other cuts of beef.

Walmart also said it reduced or eliminated the price difference between more than 350 "better-for-you" items such as low-sodium lunch meat and the equivalent regular product .

First lady Michelle Obama, who was with Walmart when it unveiled its plans in January 2011, said that the new seal gives parents information they need to make healthy choices, which is "a key piece of solving childhood obesity."

Walmart, famous for its efforts to keep costs low, said it would not throw out old packaging in order to quickly bring out products with the icon. As it runs out of packaging, it will print new boxes and labels with the seal of approval.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (2)
Confucius_3 wrote:
Walmart is absolutely clueless! The eggs are indeed healthy if they are from free running chicken and not from egg factories where the majority of chicken are sick and fed with cr@p and antibiotics.

However, the low fat approach is entirely counter productive. Low fat milk is detrimental to your health, gets you closer to diabetes 2 and leads to insulin spikes which result in the storage of fat in the abdominal area.

The ignorance continues further with the preference on lean cuts of beef. CLA in grass fed beef actually leads to a better metabolism and a slimmer body. A lean cut from a corn fed cow that has been kept within a fence in 30 sq ft of space and standing in its own excrement will harm you considerably, as the lipo-protein profile of this piece of meat differs considerably from that of a a grass fed cow which has 60% more CLA content. Furthermore they have to feed the cattle with anti-biotics to make it grow faster and to protect it from all the illness and the e coli bacteria in these unhygienic conditions of this cruel and completely unethical way of treating any animal. On top of that the cow is giving grows hormones for faster weight gain. Where is the healthy food here? Can anybody explain this?
And even though the first lady may have good intentions, her health drive for the children shows that she is clueless as well and that she is relying on hear-say and the advice of the FDA which has an own agenda anyway. The FDA clearly represents the interest of the industry (not the consumers)and is shy of making a 180 degree turn after having told the American people that they should reduce their fat intake which resulted in the worst obesity epidemics the world has ever seen (HCFS is also a big part of that).

Feb 07, 2012 10:47am EST  --  Report as abuse
afisher wrote:
Now that’s really funny. It is like so many other companies that come up with “new and improved” tag lines.
Now how many consumer’s previously thought that “junk food” or candy bars were actually good for you?
How many consumer’s know that something can be low in fat and simultaneously high in sugar?

They could use their own brand label to tell the consumer if the food was from GMO sources – and don’t believe them if they say they don’t know, but that would actually be a benefit to both the consumer and the brand. Chance of that happening? ZERO!

Feb 07, 2012 12:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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