The Transparency Trend-Empowering the American Grocery Shopper

Photo credit: Whole Foods
Two weeks ago Whole Foods announced the new 5-Step Animal Rating System, a labeling system that will be popping up in meat departments nation-wide come May 2011.  The rating system is a part of the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that audits farms and rates their animal welfare practices.  Whole Foods will be offering color-coded labels to guide consumers through the 5-Step certified beef, pork, and chicken products.  Certification indicates that the animals are raised on a vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or added growth hormones (also required by federal regulations).
5-Step Animal Welfare Rating System
Image credit: Whole Foods
A.C. Gallo, the president and COO of Whole Foods Markets comments, "We are proud to adopt this new rating system that helps shoppers make even more informed buying decisions while offering them peace of mind that the animals from our producers are raised with care."

The Transparency Trend
Food labeling is all the rage.  You might recall the hubbub about Smart Choices labels and Fruit Loops last year, and more recently the American Beverage Association announced their new "Clear on Calories" program.  The labeling initiative will display total calories on individual beverages and vending machines.

To address the labeling trend, the Institute of Medicine released Phase 1 of their front-of-pack nutrition labeling report in October 2010, concluding that labeling should focus on calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and easily understood serving sizes.  Phase 2 of the report is currently under discussion.
photo credit: Eat Drink Better
As companies slap more food labels onto packages and store shelves, I am tempted to applaud the push for "nutrition transparency" and "informed consumer purchase."  However I also wonder at what point too much information burdens rather than enlightens the consumer.  It will take more than color-coded labels to change consumer purchasing behavior and dietary patterns.  I believe proper guidance is needed to accompany these labels.

The transparency trend is exciting, but let's keep our eyes out for emerging research on food labeling and its affect on consumer purchasing.

Do you like the Whole Foods 5-Step initiative?
Your thoughts on food labeling?
Have a sweet Valentine's Day!



Elizabeth Jarrard said...

i am so pro-transparency! thanks for the great summary!

Rachel said...

yay, no problem Elizabeth!

Anonymous said...

woah, i never knew you had a food blog lol. hmm....maybe this will change the economy of the world!


Susan Yuen said...

Wow, that is great! I love Whole Foods! I appreciate the fact that they have such high standards for the food they carry and that they are so forthcoming about all of their products!

Clinton said...

You might appreciate this clip from the TV show Portlandia. :)

Emily said...

I think it's great that they want to help the consumer be more responsible, but even those labels seem pretty vague to me. For example...enriched environment?! What does that mean?!!

I agree with you; more emphasis on educating the consumer needs to happen vs. all these crazy labels!

MelindaRD said...

Interesting information on the animal labeling. I don't eat meat, but I think this can be helpful for people looking for being a "responsible" meat eater. I think labels are getting too confusing with every food company coming up with their own indicators. This really needs to be streamlined and only focus on the actual nutrition facts panel with maybe one type of label for the front of the package.

Christine Scarcello said...

This is a great article!!!! Thanks for sharing :)

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Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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