Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

Shopping Smarter at the Supermarket

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

For those who frequently shop with young children, the goal tends to be to get in, get what you need and get out before a meltdown. Reading nutrition labels and trying to make sense of manufacturer’s nutrition claims is increasingly time-consuming. While the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to regulate misleading claims — like Kellogg’s claiming their sugar-laden cereals increased immunity — for the most part, manufacturers have free reign over how they try to sell you on their products.

nutritioniQShoppers — and its family of grocery stores, including Albertsons, Acme, Bigg’s, Bristol Farms, Cub, Farm Fresh, Jewel-Osco, and Shop ‘n Save — recently unveiled a new program to help customers make sense of the claims. The nutrition iQ program is a grading system that measures food products against seven nutrition benchmarks, and then awards qualifying products a shelf tag stating that it is a good source of whole grains, low in sodium, etc. The guidelines were developed by a health organization, the Joslin Diabetes Center — independent of food manufacturers.

At first glance, this seems like a great tool to help consumers and also to apply market pressure to manufacturers. Early testing showed that consumers did shift their purchases towards products with a nutrition iQ tag. If a manufacturer sees their market share start to slip at participating stores, one would presume they would be encouraged to change their formulas. In fact, some of Shoppers’ own store brand products don’t meet the criteria for their categories, and their in-store nutritionists are working with their manufacturers to make changes.

The labels also provide a little more credibility to claims manufacturers may make on their packaging. It’s almost comical to walk the cereal aisle and see how many of the boldly “NOW WITH WHOLE GRAINS” labeled cereals don’t, in fact, qualify for the nutrition iQ whole grains tag. It’s not that they don’t have whole grains — products also have to fall under a certain sugar threshold before they can even be considered — so they may be too high in sugar and/or have too little actual whole grains. Unfortunately, a number of cereals are still made with the same over-processed grains and then have a whole grain supplement added back. To qualify for the nutrition iQ tag, an actual whole grain must be the first ingredient.

no nutrition iQ tag here

There are no bonus points for organics, so organic soup with high salt content is not going to get a tag. Organic yogurt with a lot of sugar is also disqualified, though you may still prefer that over yogurt with high fructose corn syrup.

The program was rolled out for certain categories of foods to begin with, largely processed ones. While choosing a nutrition iQ-labeled cereal is probably a better choice than one without, I do wonder if it gives an overstated sense of healthfulness — the better choice, still, is probably to skip the cereal and eat oatmeal. But I do think third-party verification of nutrition claims is a step in the right direction.

What do you think, would a store labeling program help you choose better products? How else can we pressure manufacturers to make healthier products?

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade – go check out more recipes and ideas in this week’s round-up.

Disclosure: I received a free lunch and bag of groceries for attending the launch event at Shoppers, as well as a gift card which I donated to charity. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Support Healthy Milk for Schools

Friday, October 10th, 2008

I’ve written before about our quest for artificial growth hormone-free milk that led us to sign up for milk delivery from our local creamery. Why hormone free? Artificial growth hormones (rBGH) have been linked to type II diabetes and cancer. While many of the major retailers have since banned rBGH milk from their shelves (kudos to Wal-Mart, Kroger/Fred Meyer, Chipotle), it is still being produced and distributed to our public schools. I am fortunate to be able to afford organic milk, but the majority of kids who rely on school meal programs don’t have that option. The USDA is about to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) so write today to urge them to give the schools the option of offering  artificial hormone-free milk to our schoolkids. Visit the Food & Water Watch action site RIGHT NOW to send an email. The comment period ends October 15, so comment and forward the link to your friends today!

(Note: the Food & Water Watch message does not ask USDA to mandate the choice, it merely asks them to allow schools to make their own choice.)