Food manufacturers have added “nutritional seals” to their products for some time now. I’m sure you have seen these seals claiming “Low Fat,” “Low Sodium,” “All Natural,” or “Heart Healthy,” just to name a few. As we have discussed in previous posts, these seals are intended to draw consumer attention and market foods in a more favorable light. They are not really intended to inform consumers of what foods will help them with healthy eating.
Now Walmart has added another seal. This one labels their own brands as “Great for You.” It will be interesting to see how this new seal is accepted by consumers, and how it fits with upcoming regulations being discussed now on Capitol Hill. Food maker and seller claims have drawn scrutiny in the past for adding similar seals to the fronts of their packages. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found in 2009 that some companies use them in misleading ways.
We have been very skeptical of these manufacturer claims too, and we always advocate the consumers read the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients panels on the back of most food packages before making purchase decisions. Food manufacturers can say almost anything on the front, but the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients panels are tightly regulated. In these panels, the information is presented in a layout that is consistent from product to product, so a comparison between alternatives is easier.
Walmart claims that their seal will only be added to in-house products with lower levels of fat, sugar and artificial additives. The criteria they plan to use is not clear yet, though they have promised to outline their criteria when it’s available at www.WalmartGreatForYou.com.
Of course, nutritional guidelines almost always have gray areas. For example, Walmart determined that eggs should carry the new seal. According to Andrea Thomas, senior vice president at Walmart, eggs were debated because of worries over their high cholesterol content, but in the end they received the “Great for You” seal because they are a low-cost source of protein.
In 2009, the FDA said that it planned to develop its own standards for health claims on food packages, but because of funding issues, they have yet to complete their study. Walmart officials said they did consult with the FDA as they developed their own standards.
Should you trust Walmart’s recommendations? As with all marketing claims on food packaging, we believe you should be skeptical. Remember, Walmart is in the business of selling products. They are not an agency whose mission is to inform consumers. We don’t expect Walmart, or any company for that matter, to lie to consumers. But, we do expect them to “feature” products and create marketing campaigns that result in higher sales revenues.
To ensure that your family is fully informed, make sure you bypass the marketing claims and look at the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients panels before you purchase any foods. Knowing what you are eating is a key step in healthy eating.
To learn more about how to eat healthy, check out our FREE ebook, Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? It’s available on our website.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family’s health for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: Should There Be a “Fat Tax?” , Is Your Approach Proactive or Reactive?