The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to develop a label to certify foods that meet specific health criteria, but who needs the government to tell us what to eat when Walmart can do it instead? The company, which is the largest seller of food in the United States, announced this week that it will start putting a new label on food products to help consumers make healthier food choices at its stores. A logo with the phrase “Great For You” will be used to indicate to consumers that a certain product has gotten Walmart’s nutritional seal of approval. However, not many will make the cut.
In a statement, the company said that food marked with the label “must meet rigorous nutrition criteria informed by the latest nutrition science and authoritative guidance from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Institute of Medicine (IOM).” According to our friends over at Fast Company, even well-known food and nutrition icon Marion Nestle agreed that the requirements for use of the label are pretty strict.
Products that pass the test include only fruits and vegetables, foods that are 100 percent whole grain, yogurt, milk, and other low fat dairy, lean proteins, fats, oils, nuts, seeds, and products that contain specific amounts of these ingredients. Added sugars are restricted to 25 percent of total calories and fat and sodium is also limited.
Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Andrea Thomas said, “We had a nice, long debate about eggs.” Some people argued that eggs contained too much cholesterol, and other said that they are a good, low-cost source of protein. Ultimately, the company decided that eggs were in.
The label will initially be rolled out only on Walmart store branded products, of which only 20 percent made the cut. The company is reformulating some of its products in order to meet the criteria and will eventually work with suppliers to get the label onto their products as well.
On her blog, Nestle questioned the effectiveness of these types of labeling programs, saying that they are being used as a way to avoid putting negative information on products. Essentially, this would be like telling people not to buy them. But according to a report from the Institute of Medicine that she cites, the negatives are more effective in guiding customers’ choices toward healthier products. Apparently Walmart will be conducting research to see whether or not their new system does so as well.
Kara Scharwath is a corporate social responsibility professional, marketing consultant and Sustainable Management MBA Candidate. She is currently working as a Graduate Associate in Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company while pursuing her degree at Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.