Wal-Mart has unveiled its “Great For You” icon, a part of the company’s healthier food initiative aimed at helping consumers make quick nutritional decisions. The icon will initially appear on select Wal-Mart Great Value and Marketside items, as well as on fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables this spring.

Skim and 1 percent lowfat milk qualify for the icon, but 2 percent milk and whole milk do not.

Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Wal-Mart, points that the company is listening to the wants and needs of shoppers.

“Walmart moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families, but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” Thomas said in a news release. “Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices. As they continue to balance busy schedules and tight budgets, this simple tool encourages families to have a healthier diet.”

Wal-Mart picks healthy food choices for shoppersIn 2009 the Smart Choices program was postponed after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which had been working on standard criteria for front-of-package nutrition labels, noted that competing nutrition icons could be confusing.

The FDA has not finalized its standards, but Wal-Mart plans to go ahead and launch its icon, according to MSNBC.

Christian Roberto, a doctoral student with Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, who is studying food labeling, noted that while the idea of a simple label is positive, the criteria for what gets the label must be consistent.

“It will be important to think about, ‘What nutrition criteria are they using?’” Roberto told MSNBC.

Wal-Mart has said it developed its criteria by studying government guidelines and working with health organization interested in healthy eating.

Examples include:

  • Skim and 1 percent lowfat milk qualify for the icon, but 2 percent milk and whole milk do not.
  • Plain or artificially sweetened yogurt qualifies, while yogurt sweetened with sugar does not.
  • Brown rice will get the label; white rice will not.