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Wal-Mart’s new food label tells shoppers what’s Great For You

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — In case you can’t tell which foods at Wal-Mart are healthful, the world’s largest retailer will make it obvious right on the package with a “Great For You” label.

Wal-Mart, which now also claims to be the largest food seller in the country, will slap the green icon on the front of whatever in-house brand items it deems to be nourishing. Starting this spring, those items will include Wal-Mart’s Great Value tomato puree, pure canola oil, whole-wheat bread and other foods that meet a certain nutrition standard.

The label, Wal-Mart said, can also be used by other major food brands. The Bentonville, Ark.-based chain said it worked with customers, suppliers, health groups and more to develop the Great For You guidelines.

Even First Lady Michelle Obama, with whom Wal-Mart has worked in the past on dietary initiatives, lauded the effort, saying that “giving parents the information they need to make healthy choices is a key piece of solving childhood obesity.”

Starting last year, Wal-Mart said it would try to improve the healthfulness of the food on its shelves while also making selections such as fat-free salad dressing and low-sodium lunch meat more affordable. Among the announced goals: cutting back sodium in packaged foods, eliminating industrially produced fats and more.

Consumers are already faced with a plethora of labels in grocery aisles. Critics were especially concerned when food companies created a new, green Smart Choice logo in 2009 that anointed products such as Lucky Charms and Froot Loops as being healthful.

Last year, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Marketing Association revealed another set of labels — eventually dubbed “Facts Up Front” — listing calorie, fat, sodium and sugar content in store items.

Separately, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the fall suggested yet another system: an easy-to-read nutritional version of the government’s Energy Star label.

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Those who say that the growing number of labels will only confuse the consumer are wrong. One of the advantages of this system is the quick identification of healthier food. I don’t waste my time in supermarkets and I appreciate the labels which I find very helpful as far as my orientation is concerned. Moreover, as a great fan of organic food I have to admit that I always preferred local farmers in my area (Toronto) instead of the big industry players in organic food but it seems that now I can finally find certified organic products of high quality almost everywhere and Walmart has recently done a lot of progress in this particular area.

Whatever, I refuse to shop at Walmart! I will buy my healthy food elsewhere. I HATE the “Walmart” way.

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