Wal-Mart has added to number of nutrition labels on products in US

Wal-Mart has added to number of nutrition labels on products in US

Wal-Mart Stores plans to put a logo on some of its private-label foods that it claims will help US consumers identify healthier food.

The US retail giant today (7 February) launched the Great for You icon, which will initially appear on selected Great Value and Marketside lines, plus fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables at Walmart US stores nationwide this spring.

The logo is a "transparent summary icon" that is "backed by rigorous nutrition criteria", Wal-Mart said.

The initiative was welcomed by First Lady Michelle Obama,  who is leading a US government drive to fight childhood obesity, and who had praised Wal-Mart's plans to reformulate thousands of its packaged food products in January last year.

"Today's announcement by Walmart is yet another step toward ensuring that our kids are given the chance to grow up healthy," said Obama. "Just over a year ago, Walmart committed to save shoppers a billion dollars in their cost of fruits and vegetables and the fact that Walmart exceeded this number is a real accomplishment and a milestone in our efforts to support families eating better."

Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Wal-Mart, said the retailer, when working with suppliers, the public sector and NGOs, could "truly make a difference in people's lives".

Dach added: "We are proud to announce that after a year of working with nutrition stakeholders, meaningful progress is being made. We have the opportunity to address an issue many feel is too complicated or too hard to tackle and to demonstrate that it doesn't have to be."

The move, however, comes amid growing debate in the US over the number of nutrition labels in use or about to be launched.

US food retailers use a number of different systems to rate the nutritional value of products, including the NuVal scheme used by regional retailers such as Meijer and Guiding Stars, developed by US chains owned by Belgium-based retailer Delhaize.

Meanwhile, a labelling system called Facts Up Front, devised by manufacturers, is due to be launched early this year. 

In October, The Institute of Medicine urged the Food and Drug Administration to develop a "single, standard front-of-pack symbol system" to appear on all food and drink products. The Institute argued that the different systems appearing on the market confused consumers, and that a single system would help consumers "quickly and easily find healthier products" and encourage food and drink makers to produce "healthier fare".