Food Pyramid Gets Kudos and Raspberries

Discussion
Apr 21, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


It’s hard to make everyone happy.


When the USDA unveiled its new dietary guidelines program (AKA the new food pyramid) earlier in the week, the agency touted the simplicity of the visual as necessary “to encourage
consumers to make healthier food choices and to be active every day.”


The pyramid uses a series of vertical, colored bars to illustrate various food groups and their importance to a healthy diet. For example, the slimmest bar in yellow is for oils
and fats. The USDA recommends consumers stay away from solid fats such as butter, stick margarine, shortening and lard while getting what little is needed from this group from
more healthful sources such as fish and nuts.


Some believe, however, that the new graphic is not as clear as it could be in stressing the relative importance of certain food groups while warning consumers off of less healthful
products.


Count Ruth Kava, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science and Health, among that group. She told MarketWatch, “I don’t think the layout is as obvious
in terms of the amounts of food one should eat as the old pyramid was.”


Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, thinks the pyramid falls short in communicating all that has been learned about
proper nutrition in recent years.


“With rising obesity rates as one of the biggest health problems facing the country, USDA should’ve given clear advice about how to cut calories and which foods to eat less of,”
she said. “They missed that chance with this new pyramid.”


Food manufacturers, on the whole, are positive about the new graphic and dietary guidelines from the government.


Manly Mopus, president and CEO for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), said in a released statement, “The new Food Guidance System provides an unparalleled opportunity
for government, the food and beverage industry, nutrition experts and others to help Americans live healthier lifestyles.”


GMA is sponsoring a nationwide education campaign for children. The association estimates it will reach up to 4 million children.


Moderator’s Comment: What do you think about the new food pyramid? How can retailers and those involved in selling food use it to educate and serve consumers?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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9 Comments on "Food Pyramid Gets Kudos and Raspberries"


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Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I completely agree with Rick on all points. Just when I was tempted to dismiss the pyramid altogether as an overblown exercise in futility, I found out that the USDA website has been receiving millions of hits on the new pyramid. Someone is interested!

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 10 months ago

How much did it cost the USDA and other government agencies to come up with the new pyramid and guidelines that few people are going to analyze?

My guess is that they could have used the money to take everyone in the country out to dinner and show them what a healthy meal consists of. Unfortunately, when it comes to government programs and spending, not all the pork is on the plate.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 10 months ago

Seriously?

How many real consumers – nondieticians – does anyone think are actually going to analyze the graphic? My best guess is five.

The vast majority of people will listen to the topline reports and behave – or not – accordingly. Those who are more actively involved in their nutritional lives will read the articles, absorb the guidelines, and act accordingly. Everyone else will carry on as they always have done.

The graphic alone will not make or break anyone’s response to the information. How effective was the last one?

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I was really disappointed in the design. Essentially, there’s no reason for it to be a pyramid any longer. They’re “shoe-horning” the newer, more complex model into the old shape, simply to maintain the name (which, I understand has a certain “brand” to it). A “Nutrition Grid” would make more sense, seeing that they’ve created an interactive matrix, although a simplistic one, to do at least some customizing for the users that visit the Web site.

On the positive side, the Web site is nicely designed…very appealing and intuitive. I believe they’ve made great strides over what they had in the past in making the information accessible via the Web. I’ll be interested to see the GMA program for kids. But given today’s Web/database technology and the scientific understanding of nutrition relative to age, body type, gender, exercise habits, etc….I would have thought there would be thousands of permutations on the pyramid, not just twelve. I can’t help thinking this effort is five years outdated from the get-go.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 10 months ago

Coming in the same week that a new study found that being moderately overweight is actually ok for your health, and the same month that more medications were pulled from the market, I think most consumers now realize that what’s healthy one day can be unhealthy the next, and that government advice is generally several years behind conventional wisdom. I doubt the average Joe or Jane is going to worry too much about the new graphics, or the new recommendations.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Len…partial answer to your question: According to the NYTimes, Porter Novelli was paid $2.5 million for the design of the pyramid. (Perhaps for $3 million, they could have managed hands and feet for the stair-climber ; )

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 10 months ago

Pyramid’s have a point, but this one seems to missing one (along with the hands and feet on the climber). Yeah, if you have the time and interest to “tour” the pyramids on line and deal with the web site, you might take away something…but that’s twenty minutes to a half hour that you could have been walking instead of sitting on your tush overanalyzing eating patterns that you will probably never put into practice. So now we have the pointless food pyramid (in both English and Spanish, which was a nice touch…equal opportunity pointlessness). It brings to mind that the Aztecs, real architects of pyramids, were also responsible for bringing us chocolate. I didn’t notice that as a food group, but I would recommend a brown line be added…recent reports say that dark chocolate could actually be good for you…and there’s even a chocolate being sold that claims to speed up your metabolism…(but I digress).

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

The operative word should be “opportunity”. The pyramid is insufficient and unenlightening on its own. Only if manufacturers, retailers – and schools – use the opportunity to expand on its meaning will it become practical and useful. I read somewhere that there are symbols that can be used to explain what each colour strip means; that strikes me as the absolute minimum that should be added (and hopefully wouldn’t cost the extra $1/2m Rick envisaged). As for accessing it, like Carol, I read that the site was being hit by so many people it kept crashing out but what about all the millions who don’t, won’t or can’t get online? How is it being circulated and publicised?

There also needs to be some oversight, I think, of the manufacturers who are instantly printing it on their packages – someone needs to make sure the meanings are not misrepresented, shall we say.

David Lotterer
Guest
David Lotterer
15 years 10 months ago

Living in short-attention-span-America, for a device like this to be effective, it should be simple and make its point in 10 seconds or less, and be repeated until it is part of the culture. (i.e. Just Say No, Got Milk, the no smoking sign, etc.) I would guess that the numerous hits to the government web site are mostly from those already interested in nutrition – not necessarily the target audience.

The problem is that junior is sitting in front of the Nintendo for 8 hours a day eating chips and candy bars, instead of grabbing an apple and going outside to play football. Or Dad, sitting in the easy chair watching sports, drinking a beer and eating a dozen chicken wings.

I think they would have done better with a simple message of moderation and activity. The vast majority of Americans know that fruits and vegetables are better for you than pizza and a #1 value meal. The challenge is in changing America’s bad habits.

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