Growing consumer disquiet about the health benefits of food is seemingly having a profound effect on the food industry. Kraft Foods - part of tobacco group Philip Morris - is the latest player to announce a healthy eating venture. Yet declaring its products to be South Beach friendly may not be the best tactic for dealing with wider health issues in the longer term.

Kraft Foods is trying to change its image to appear more health conscious, in line with growing consumer awareness of diet concerns - particularly rising levels of obesity in Europe and the US. Kraft has announced a deal that will enable some of its products to carry the South Beach diet seal, with up to 200 offerings endorsed as conforming to the requirements of the regime.

So far, this scheme is only intended for the US market where the South Beach diet has been a great success, if not quite of the same magnitude as that of the Atkins diet. The South Beach book by cardiologist Dr Arthur Agatston was published in April 2003. It has since sold more that 8 million copies and the diet has been adopted by celebrities as varied as Bill Clinton and Nicole Kidman.

Kraft's decision to embrace the diet is obviously welcome as it marks an attempt by the company to link its products more directly to the issues of diet, health and obesity. However, by aligning itself to a celebrity-endorsed regime such as South Beach, Kraft has arguably made the news as much for following a fashion as for dealing with the underlying concerns about the content of its food.

Such headline grabbing announcements on healthy eating are becoming increasingly common: a number of UK confectioners this week revealed they were ditching the king size varieties of their chocolate bars; the manufacturers also insisting that they are addressing health concerns.

However the industry does not have to resort to such eye catching but short-term initiatives. In the long run, improvements in consumer diets could be brought about by giving easy to understand information on labels about the healthiness or otherwise of products. Labels giving concise and clear health information on every product would surely be of far greater benefit than those announcing adherence to the latest dieting craze.

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