Wal-mart’s New Nutritional Guidelines

I’m late to the party on this, but did you hear that Wal-mart is coming out with new nutritional packaging? And the company pledged to reduce sodium on packaged foods. Michelle Obama was on hand at the announcement and she gave a speech on January 20th.

On the surface it sounds really great. Wal-mart is doing the obvious taking the initiative to change some packaging. But something about it irked me. I didn’t get into a lather over it, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. And it wasn’t because I’m not a Wal-mart customer.

I just wish that the government could lead these packaging changes and not to go along with one company’s new policies.

Anyway, if you want to read more about what happened, you can find great coverage below. What are your thoughts?

The Lunch Tray: First Lady, Wal-Mart Announce Healthy Food Initiative
The Lunch Tray: Walmart Revisited (Part One): A Round-Up of Opinion From the Blogosphere
The Lunch Tray: Walmart Revisted (Part Two): Why I’m Still Cautiously Optimistic

Civil Eats: Walmart’s New Initiative and Our Health: More Harm Than Good?
Spoonfed: Stop reading labels and start reading ingredients

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18 Responses to Wal-mart’s New Nutritional Guidelines

  1. Tracy January 31, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    If Wal-Mart is heading this up, you can rest assured it will benefit no one other than Wal-Mart.

  2. Anonymous January 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    You want the government to have total control? Yes, a fabulous idea. Not only are our congressmen highly educated on nutrition, nutrition labels are also their number 1 priority right now, so they'll be making the best decisions….sorry, that was sarcasm. As huge and imposing as WalMart is, I feel much more comfortable knowing that they're taking the initiative. Consumer do have some say and control with companies by simply going to another store. But if the government mandates something, that is not the case.
    Besides, I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of the government sticking its nose into something as personal as food. Nanny state, much?!

  3. Annie @ PhD in Parenting January 31, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    I have mixed feelings about the announcement.

    The nutritional labeling should absolutely be a government initiative. I hadn't even noticed that part of the announcement initially.

    What interested me more was the targets for reducing sodium in packaged foods. I do think that is a good thing and hope it will benefit those who do shop at Wal Mart anyway (and who are perhaps arguably also the group that most need to cut sodium and other unhealthy things out of their diet).

    That said, sodium is just one problem. It is one of many problems with the foods being sold at stores like Wal Mart and it also doesn't undo all of the other things that Wal Mart is doing wrong.

    So overall, my reaction is fairly neutral. Interesting, but not going to have me racing to shop at Wal Mart.

  4. BusyChica January 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    I am a walmart customer, they save me lots of money. I do feel guilty at times for a myriad of reasons that I will not get into. That being said, as I walk through my local walmart, I've seen first hand how little thought some people put into their nutrition. People who could truly benefit from reduced sodium, fat, artificial ingredients in general, the list goes on.

    I wish all the food companies would start making their foods better for you. Not so much for those of us who read the labels, but for those who don't and especially for the children who don't have a choice but to eat what is given to them. Although, this would also make my life easier too.

    Hopefully, walmart's initiative will force others to compete to keep up and offer foods with less sodium too. But then again, I'm a half-full glass gal living in a half-empty glass world.

  5. Lauren January 31, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    This post actually makes me want to stop reading your blog. Wal-Mart does have some corporate issues, as does Target, Kmart, etc. But they are also the number one corporate charitable contributor and one of the only corporations well known for employing the disabled.
    And with some of the previous comments, I would rather not have the government too involved, I think it's great that Wal-Mart took the initiative.

  6. Anonymous January 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    The government is already controlling what we eat..or at least what we are more likely to eat, by subsidizing cows and corn and not vegetables. Corporations are only going to do things that benefit them. Walmart is basically doing this a publicity stunt. Even with less sodium, processed foods are no substitution for fresh unadulterated foods. In fact it is even worse because people will think that they are healthy and eat more of them, when in fact they are just a little less unhealthy.
    I also do not shop at Walmart. They have basically caused the demise of the small town town center through out this country. I try not to shop at any sort of super store as much as possible. We vote with our money every day. If we want to live in a monotonous world ruled by corporate monopolies, then we can spend our money at places like walmart. If we want to be able to have consume choices, then we should try to shop at local stores, and to spread our money around to different venues as much as possible.

  7. Megan January 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    We should applaud any private business that takes steps, on its own accord, to make changes like this. Other business will follow suit–we do not need the government to regulate everything.
    And be glad that it is Walmart doing it–I think it is safe to assume that Walmart's customers are more likely to need this nutritional information than shoppers at Whole Foods or even Target.

  8. alissa January 31, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Surely any change is a good change! There's absolutely nothing wrong with a company trying to be healthier. It's the shopper's that need to be smarter – that's what would make a difference.

  9. Anonymous January 31, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    I agree with the poster that said if Walmart is doing it – it is only to bolster their bottom line. Just look at some of the labels that have come to be regarding the 'size' of daily calorie intakes: It should be anywhere from about 1400 to 2000 tops and the panels now show a 2000 calorie diet and a 2500 calorie diet. That makes people feel better when they look at the % and think they are eating healthier.

    The government should protect people not protect corporations bottom line.

    just like the corn industry wants to change the name of HFCS to something more nice sounding – it's to try and deceive us! sugar is pretty cheap but they insisted on finding an even cheaper solution in HFCS. It's all about the bottom line. sorry to say.

  10. Marvin January 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Here's the thing: changes that Wal-mart wants, it gets and it has in the past benefited everyone. When Wal-mart decided that it wanted all suppliers to streamline their operations structure to get lower prices, they all did that so they wouldn't lose out on business. When Wal-mart decided that RFID chips were a good idea, that forced all suppliers to test out RFID chips in their merchandise. That will eventually lead to inventory that can essentially track itself, which is good for all businesses.

    Wal-mart is deciding that they won't sell products without better nutritional guides? Fantastic, that means anyone who sells any type of food through Wal-mart now has to have those better labels or they risk losing a huge chunk of business. Change is much more quickly enacted when there is a severe financial impetus to do so. If the government had mandated this sort of change, it would take 15 years to fully happen. Wal-mart will make it happen in less than a third of the time.

    Say what you will about Wal-marts other practices, but they did revolutionize the mass merchandiser business, in a couple positive ways.

  11. Melissa Lynn D January 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    I find it extremely disturbing that anyone could WANT the government involved in what we eat! The only thing the government needs to do is stay the heck out of places they don't belong! One reason I am so opposed to government-run healthcare – it opens the door to them telling us what choices (such as food, recreation, etc.) are allowed under their plan.

    I hear so many rants about how terrible the beef industry is and also how more people are wanting to buy local. Did you know that it's government regulations that make it so difficult to buy beef locally? I don't know if this is nationwide or just where I live, but for us to sell beef privately, the buyer has to purchase the animal itself because regulations state that for us to sell the meat, it must be inspected. You can butcher your own animal without having it inspected. This works alright as long as someone has a large freezer and can take 1/4 or 1/2 of the meat (and we can find 2-4 people who all want that much beef and are willing to go in together to buy the animal). If you want to buy a few pounds of hamburger or a couple steaks, you're out of luck. That's the kind of thing that happens when the government gets involved.

    I also believe it's government regulations that dictate the school menus you so vehemently oppose.

  12. Anonymous January 31, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    I am not a Walmart fan and do believe that anything that Walmart does is for its own benefit.

    However, more government regulations? Really? Because so far they have worked so well with other food issues?

  13. Renee January 31, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    I think it's kind of funny to hear people say that they want the government to stay out of our food –do these people not realize that the government is currently regulating their food? It's like the whole heathcare debate –"stay out of my healthcare, but don't you take my medicare away". People are so uninformed.

    The government currently controls what you eat by subsidizing corn and soy. If you can get the govt to stop that, then I'd be happy to keep the government out of what we eat. But you'll have to get rid of those subsidies first, and I don't imagine Wal-mart and industrial-ag is going to let that happen!

  14. Anonymous January 31, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    One other part of this is that WalMart is promising to lower prices on produce. Now that's something worthwhile. Making packaged crap that no one should eat in the first place a little less bad isn't anything to brag about…

  15. Melissa E. February 1, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    I guess any steps they take are better than the way things are now. I still feel dirty whenever I shop at Walmart, though, and will most likely avoid shopping there. But for poor families, Walmart is often the only choice, and if they really do lower prices on produce and lower the sodium in food, it can only help those families.

  16. Anonymous February 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    For those of you worried about government regulatios…it doesn't worry you that walmart says 'jump' and everyone does…do you really want walmart telling you what to do? Taking swears off your cds…telling you what is and isn't healthy? etc.etc.

  17. Bettina at The Lunch Tray February 3, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    Just want to thank you, Mrs. Q, for linking to my Wal-Mart posts on The Lunch Tray. I've been really fascinated by the diverse viewpoints of your readership — much food for thought, no pun intended! 🙂

  18. GlycoTrainer June 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I agree with Melissa – the government needs to stay out of controlling what we eat.

    At what point will WE, THE PEOPLE take responsibility into our own hands?

    As a specific response to the changing of sodium labeling – WHY?

    Since when did "salt" mean sodium (or sodium chloride)? Sodium is a salt, but not all salt is sodium. This became evident in my first semester of chemistry (intro to general chemistry). My first semester of biology I learned there are various ions (SALTS) that help regulate cellular function.

    So it was easy to infer that it might not be a high intake of sodium causing health problems but a high intake of sodium COMPARED TO OTHER IONS. Sea salt, for example, has other ions (Mg, K, I) and its intake hasn't been linked to health issues sodium intake is usually linked to.

    These were conclusion I came to years ago… And a few wks ago a study confirmed it.

    Sorry for the "rant"… but I believe the government is inefficient, at best, in delivering useful health information. While they are focused on "controlling sodium" science is YEARS ahead. Lets take time each day to read one or two health related articles. Maybe buy a basic biology or nutrition book and read a few pages a day.

    Do what you have to, but take control. I would strongly recommend against relying on the government for proper health.

    Kevin :: Glycotrainer
    On Twitter: @glycotrainer
    Web Site: http://www.GlycoTrainer.com

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