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Supervalu Introduces Healthy Elements

Everybody and their brother is jumping onto the nutrition labeling trend these days, so when we hear that another company has implemented Guiding Stars, NuVal, Nutrition IQ or any of the other major programs, it’s not really worth mentioning.

But we can’t let this one slip by: Supervalu, one of the largest supermarket/wholesalers in the country, has just introduced Healthy Elements, a labeling system that it plans to market to independent retailers.

The program’s not radically different from the competition, though it sounds solid. Green labels will be used to identify products that meet Food and Drug Administration criteria for health claims like low cholesterol, low fat, whole grain and gluten free. There are nine claims in all, and the shelf tags will list up to four of these.

It’s a pretty simple idea that adheres to some well-established standards, and that’s what we like about it. Indeed, the whole concept of nutrition labeling is a positive step for the industry, but there have been rumblings indicating consumer confusion over the various standards that are out there. A recent release from the American Dietetic Association points out that a product that may receive a high rating under one system might receive a low score under a different one.

A legitimate concern, though it’s a bit too soon to issue a final ruling on the labeling movement. In the meantime, the train rolls on: NSF International, the nonprofit standards-setting organization, and the American Society for Nutrition announced that they will administer the Smart Choices, the labeling program recently developed by a group of manufacturers and distributors (Wal-Mart is also among the charter members). NSF’s involvement is a good thing, as it removes any stigma of favoritism. After all, having a company rate the healthfulness of its own products doesn’t promote a lot of confidence.