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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2012

Wal-Mart sets nutritional seal rules

'Great for You’ label to start appearing on products this spring

NEW YORK TIMES
Wal-Mart nnveils "Great for You" labels which point to healthier food choices. Wal-Mart nnveils "Great for You" labels which point to healthier food choices.
PR NEWSWIRE Enlarge

NEW YORK — As part of the promise it made last year to improve the nutritional quality of the food it sells, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Tuesday it has devised standards to determine what is healthy and would label the foods that meet those standards.

The new label, bright green with the words Great for You, will first appear on the retailer’s own Great Value and Marketside food items this spring as well as on signs around fresh fruits and vegetable displays.

But Wal-Mart executives said the company plans to allow other brands to use the label without paying any licensing fee.

“This is not meant to lecture our customers,” Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, said. “They can buy a dessert when they want to. But when they want to buy a cracker, we can help steer them to a healthier cracker if that’s what they’re looking for.”

Wal-Mart is not the first company to try to promote healthful foods. But as the country’s largest grocery store chain and one that caters in particular to budget-conscious consumers, it plays an influential role in the health of U.S. families.

Wal-Mart has been working with suppliers of national brands and private-label products to reduce sodium, added sugar, and trans fats in some 165 products it sells.

Sodium, for example, has been cut by more than 70 percent in fresh steaks, roasts, and other cuts of beef.

Food processors and sellers have come under scrutiny in the past for nutritional seals. The Food and Drug Administration said in 2009 that some companies used them misleadingly. The FDA is developing standards for health claims on food packages, but Wal-Mart says its customers want the information now.

Experts on nutrition and health generally commended the standards for the Great for You label. “The criteria are pretty strict, I’ll give them credit for that,” said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. “The label will only go on to about one-fifth of their products.”

She noted, for example, that the criteria exclude all sugary cereals. In principle, however, Ms. Nestle is opposed to such labels because, she said, they are too often little more than “green ‘buy me’ schemes.”

“Will this increase sales of so-called better for you Wal-Mart brand products? Maybe,” she said. “Will it make people healthier? That’s going to be a much more difficult question to answer.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Wal-Mart sets nutritional seal rules

‘Great for You’ label to start appearing on products this spring

New York Times

NEW YORK — As part of the promise it made last year to improve the nutritional quality of the food it sells, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Tuesday it has devised standards to determine what is healthy and would label the foods that meet those standards.

The new label, bright green with the words Great for You, will first appear on the retailer’s own Great Value and Marketside food items this spring as well as on signs around fresh fruits and vegetable displays.

But Wal-Mart executives said the company plans to allow other brands to use the label without paying any licensing fee.

“This is not meant to lecture our customers,” Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, said. “They can buy a dessert when they want to. But when they want to buy a cracker, we can help steer them to a healthier cracker if that’s what they’re looking for.”

Wal-Mart is not the first company to try to promote healthful foods. But as the country’s largest grocery store chain and one that caters in particular to budget-conscious consumers, it plays an influential role in the health of U.S. families.

Wal-Mart has been working with suppliers of national brands and private-label products to reduce sodium, added sugar, and trans fats in some 165 products it sells.

Sodium, for example, has been cut by more than 70 percent in fresh steaks, roasts, and other cuts of beef.

Food processors and sellers have come under scrutiny in the past for nutritional seals. The Food and Drug Administration said in 2009 that some companies used them misleadingly. The FDA is developing standards for health claims on food packages, but Wal-Mart says its customers want the information now.

Experts on nutrition and health generally commended the standards for the Great for You label. “The criteria are pretty strict, I’ll give them credit for that,” said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. “The label will only go on to about one-fifth of their products.”

She noted, for example, that the criteria exclude all sugary cereals. In principle, however, Ms. Nestle is opposed to such labels because, she said, they are too often little more than “green ‘buy me’ schemes.”

“Will this increase sales of so-called better for you Wal-Mart brand products? Maybe,” she said. “Will it make people healthier? That’s going to be a much more difficult question to answer.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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