by Marion Nestle
Sep 6 2007

Hannaford’s Stars Get Results

Hannaford, the supermarket chain in the Northeast, today reports the one-year results of its Guiding Stars program. This, you may recall, puts zero, one, two, or three stars on foods in the store, depending on how the products meet some rather rigorous nutrition standards. When the program started a year ago, less than one-fourth of 27,000 foods in the store qualified for even one star (when the criteria are independent, products endorsed as healthy by their makers do not qualify). Did the program encourage people to choose products with stars over those without them? It did! Take a look at the results and see if you think this approach is worthwhile. Hannaford does not reveal its nutritional criteria for awarding stars because of patent issues. I think it should. If the program works, other stores might be encouraged to try something similar. And here’s what the New York Times has to say about it.

  • So sad. Reminds me of that recent study in the news where kids thought that any food wrapped in McDonald’s packaging tasted better. Now it’s stars to fool people.

    Have people really become so ignorant about their food choices that they need a trail of stars around a store to tell them what to eat? Is it really that bad out there? Most of the grocery shoppers I know have a pretty good idea what is good food and what isn’t (it’s usually in the perimeter of the store, often has no or minimal packaging, and typically isn’t processed to last an eternity. And I would argue that many of those “starred” items mentioned in the article are not the healthiest things to eat or at least in any quantity. I won’t take up your space on where Hannaford’s and I differ on what constitutes healthy foods, but suffice it to say that I am more in line with Nina Planck’s recommendations in her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why. No, I’m not connected to that author in any way other than as a reader and in agreement on food, so I’m not trying to drum up business for her (check it out of the library). But if someone is so ignorant of nutrition and good eating that they need instruction, read Planck’s book before looking for Hannaford stars. Sheesh! My stars, indeed.

  • WaltK

    Nicely spun report. But it begs the real question.

    If people suddenly start buying 90% lean ground beef and 3-star breakfast cereals and 4-star frozen entrees, will it have any effect on health, or on body weight?

    I’m skeptical. Is there any data that suggests free-living people will lose weight and become ‘healthier’ simply by switching to lower-calorie, lower fat food? From what I’ve seen, there’s a tendency to compensate — perhaps unconsciously — by simply eating MORE of the so-called ‘proper’ food. Net effect, zero.

    I admit, there’s good PR value in programs like this, though.

  • Alright, eating healthy is important. But what about those of us who are allergic to most “healthy” foods? Whole grains – ANY whole grains – cause me severe GI distress and make me break out in huge, painful zits. So what will the stars do for me when I can’t eat the healthy things?

  • Jane

    Jami – you don’t need grains, whole or otherwise, regardless of ‘stars’. Stick to whole meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits and a bit of dairy if you can tolerate it. Your body will thank you!

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