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Walmart Tells You What's "Healthy"

February 8, 2012, 3:02 pm

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, wants to help you, the confused shopper, decide what foods to buy, if you by chance are looking for "healthy" foods, and have no idea how to figure this out for yourself. To make sure it is perfectly clear, the logo says "Great for You."

Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville, Ark., says it determined the guidelines after a year of meeting with health organizations, customers, its suppliers and others. The FDA says it is developing standards for what health claims food manufacturers can state on the label but have yet to finalize them. Walmart says consumers need this information now and went ahead with their own assessment.

And what is Walmart's criteria for "healthy" food? They will affix the seal to in-house brands that have lower levels of fat, sodium, sugar, and artificial additives. It will also appear on signs near fruits and vegetables. (A complete accounting of what they consider healthy can be found at walmartgreatforyou.com.)

So what is wrong with trying to help shoppers by telling them, at a glance, what is good for them?

Consumers need to do their own research on what is healthy and what is not rather than relying on the food industry to tell them. While the claims may be accurate with a criteria such as low sodium, there are so many other factors to consider in choosing healthy food. Slapping an industry-created label on a product encourages consumers to be lazy and not take the time to educate themselves.

Just because Walmart says that a can of peas is "healthy," does that really mean it is? If you ask someone else the answer may be 'no.' The can liner contains Bisphenol A, a hormone disrupting chemical (all canned foods do except Eden canned foods) and canned vegetables also have a much lower nutrient content vs. fresh or frozen. It's a gray area and up for debate.

Here is another product featuring the "Great for You" logo, Cinnamon Swirl High Fiber Instant Oatmeal. Ingredients: Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Salt, Calcium Carbonate , Cinnamon, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Guar Gum, Sucralose, Caramel Color, Ferric Phosphate (A Source of Iron), Niacinamide*, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)*, Riboflavin*, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamin Mononitrate*, Folic Acid*.

I would not consider this to be a healthy product because it contains artificial flavors and sucralose aka Splenda, (a chorine-containing substance that significantly decreases beneficial gut flora and can produce other side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, headaches, abdominal pain, anxiety, among others.) Maltodextrin and sugar are the second ingredients, and if you are concerned about avoiding genetically modified foods, the sugar is likely to come from sugar beets, which most likely were GMO beets.

Contrast this whole Walmart campaign with what food co-ops all over the country have been doing since they were founded, namely providing clean, whole, unadulterated foods. In other words, "healthy" food. On Walmart's list of "great for you" foods, many of the items listed are, in fact, whole foods such as eggs, milk, vegetables, and whole grains. But nowhere does Walmart use the term "whole foods," the standard by which food co-ops have been operating all along.



Posted by at 3:02 pm
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