News / USA

Largest US Grocer Pledges Healthier Foods

First lady Michelle Obama arrives for a Wal-Mart announcement of a comprehensive effort to provide healthier and more affordable food choices to their customers, Jan. 20, 2011, in Washington.
First lady Michelle Obama arrives for a Wal-Mart announcement of a comprehensive effort to provide healthier and more affordable food choices to their customers, Jan. 20, 2011, in Washington.

First lady Michelle Obama and retail giant Wal-Mart have launched a program aimed at improving the nutritional content of America's foods, and making those items more affordable for millions of Americans. The initiative is part of the first lady's campaign to promote healthier choices for children in the United States.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, says it will reformulate thousands of food products to make them healthier. It plans to reduce salt and sugar in foods by 2015, lower prices on produce and promote healthier food items.

"At Wal-Mart we don't believe that any customer, in fact any American, should have to choose between doing what is realistic and affordable and doing what is healthier for her family," said Andrea Thomas, a senior vice president at Wal-Mart.

A number of food makers, including Kraft Foods and PepsiCo Inc., announced sodium reductions in their products last year.

As the nation's largest grocer, Wal-Mart has unique influence in changing the practices of its suppliers.

The initiative  is part of first lady Michelle Obama's efforts to reduce childhood obesity in the U.S.

At a news conference in Washington Thursday, the president's wife called Wal-Mart's efforts "a huge victory" for all Americans.

"When kids are consuming these products every day, those reductions in sugar, and salts and trans-fat can really add up. When healthier options are finally affordable, that can affect every single meal a child eats, whether it's adding fruit at breakfast, or whole wheat bread at lunch, or some veggies on the plate at dinner," she said.

Mrs. Obama said the launch of the Wal-Mart campaign has the potential to transform the marketplace, citing the 140 million people who shop at the retailer each week.

"I don't just feel hopeful about what this one company is doing for our children's health. I feel hopeful about what we as a nation can do. And even more importantly, I feel hopeful about what we as individuals - what we as parents - can do.  That's the point," she said.

Mrs. Obama once served on the board of a Wal-Mart vendor, but resigned in 2007. That decision came days after her husband, campaigning for the presidency, announced he would not shop at the store, because of the wages and benefits it provided to employees.

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