Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, announced today a plan to provide its customers with healthier and more affordable food choices, including dropping trans fats from its store brand products.
First Lady Michelle Obama joined the company as it outlined the key elements of the program which build on the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to make healthy choices more convenient and affordable for families.
Walmart is committed to reformulating its Great Value private brand packaged food items as follows:
- Reduce sodium by 25 percent in grain products, luncheon meats, salad dressings and frozen entrees, among other products;
- Reduce added sugars by 10 percent in dairy items, sauces and fruit drinks; and
- Remove all remaining industrially produced trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats and oils) in all packaged food products.
Its target date to accomplish the goals is 2015. Sodium, sugar and trans fats are believed to be major contributors to the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Since 2005, trans fats in the United States have been reduced by 50 percent.
In addition, the company will work with its suppliers to improve the nutritional quality of national food brands and encourage them to meet the same targets.
Walmart has also committed to making fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy products more affordable through a variety of sourcing, pricing, transportation and logistics initiatives that will reduce supply chain costs. The company estimates that their efforts will save customers approximately $1 billion per year on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Walmart will also reduce or eliminate the price differential on certain products that are deemed healthier options, such as reduced sodium, sugar or fat products, which typically sell at a premium to their less healthy counterparts.
The company is also working on developing criteria for a front-of-package seal that will help consumers identify healthier food options such as whole grain cereal, whole wheat pasta or unsweetened canned fruit. Other food industry companies have failed to do this given their obvious conflict of interest, and the only truly unbiased system developed by nutrition scientists remains the NuVal system which is already available in some supermarkets.
Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded the company’s efforts to eliminate trans fats and reduce sodium, but at the same time criticized its target for sugar, noting that its initiative did not cover the problem of added sugar in soft drinks.
In the Philadelphia area, Walmart operates more than 20 stores.