As mentioned by Leslie Back last week, Walmart announced a five year plan aimed at reducing the price of healthier foods and providing a wider selection of healthy produce and packaged food items. A recap of the major goals are as follows:
A well-known name in the food policy and nutrition world and author of What to Eat, Marion Nestle, points out on her Food Politics blog that Walmart’s nutrition criteria -- to be utilized for reviewing their own products -- “seem generous and not particularly challenging.” Nestle goes on to say that the creation of Walmart’s own front-of-label packaging to make these self-categorized ‘healthier’ foods more easily identifiable, “is particularly annoying. They are doing this just when the Institute of Medicine and FDA are trying to establish research-based criteria for front-of-package labels. So here is one more company trying to preempt FDA regulations. When I asked Walmart representatives about this, they told me that the FDA moves slowly and the public needs this information now. Sorry. I don’t buy that…I’ll say it again: a better-for-you processed food is not necessarily a good choice.”
Another critique brought up in this Fast Company article notes, “In a sense, Walmart is correcting a problem that it bred in the first place,” citing a 2009 study that correlates the addition of new Walmart Supercenters with an increase in obesity in those locales.
While there is healthy criticism of Walmart’s plan, the skeptics also realize the significant impact the world’s largest retailer might stand to have on influencing food producers and other grocers by making a push for healthier, more affordable food options. Tell us what you think of these initiatives. Should Walmart receive praise, are they not raising the bar high enough, or both?
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