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Wal-Mart Makes Selling Healthy Food a Priority

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Wal-Mart and Michelle Obama are teaming up to help reduce childhood obesity. Wal-Mart just announced in early January, 2011 a five-year plan to make thousands of its packaged foods lower in unhealthy salts, fats, and sugars, and to drop prices on fruits and vegetables.

“Wal-Mart sells more groceries than any other company in the country, and because it is such a large purchaser of foods produced by national suppliers, nutrition experts say the changes could have a big impact on the affordability of healthy food and the health of American families and children,” wrote reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times.

Politicians and businesses recognize Wal-Mart’s size and impact—many see Wal-Mart having as much influence to shape public policy as the United States Food and Drug Administration. If Wal-Mart leads people to eat healthier, the impact could be greatly significant.

At the center of the First Lady’s agenda is healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity—what she calls her Let’s Move initiative. This is the first time Obama has thrown her efforts behind a single company.

“The plan, similar to efforts by other companies and to public health initiatives by New York City, sets specific targets for lowering sodium, trans fats and added sugars in a broad array of foods — including rice, soups, canned beans, salad dressings and snacks like potato chips — packaged under the company’s house brand, Great Value,” according to Stolberg.

The changes will be introduced over a period of five years, to give the company time to adapt to any roadblocks and to give consumers time to adjust to foods’ new taste.

Additionally, Wal-Mart will work to eliminate any extra cost to customers for fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods made with whole grains. Wal-Mart foresees taking a hit in profit but making up for it in sales volume.

Wal-Mart is pledging to reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats and reduce added sugars by 10 percent by 2015. Its other plans are less specific.

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