Popular with everyone from breastfeeding moms to design enthusiasts, Target is the quintessentially American retailer. You can pop into your local Target and easily get what you need to run your entire life—clothing, housewares, groceries—and probably a few goodies you didn’t actually need, but couldn’t resist! Target’s latest announcement, aimed at providing cleaner food options for the millions of American families the store serves, is sure to make a big difference in the food retail arena.
Well aware that modern families are interested in wholesome foods that don’t contain dyes and artificial ingredients, the retailer announced in July that all of their in-house food brands will be free of artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, colors, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup by the end of 2018. Currently, about 75 percent of the kids’ foods sold under Target’s Market Pantry and Simply Balanced labels meet this criteria.
The popular Simply Balanced and Market Pantry brands offer a wide range of children’s foods, like macaroni and cheese, fruit snacks and pouches, yogurts, crackers, granola, nut butter and applesauce. Many of the products are also organic.
In a country struggling with childhood obesity, a move like this from a top-tier retailer like Target sends a serious message about healthy diets for children. While a little red dye or corn syrup here and there likely won’t make a big difference in one child’s diet, research has shown negative effects when children regularly eat trans fat or high-fructose corn syrup.
Target isn’t the only retailer going the natural route, either. In 2015, grocer Aldi removed synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils and added monosodium glutamate (MSG) from all of their private label food items.
Some nutritionists warn that removing artificial ingredients doesn’t mean all Target-branded snacks are necessarily good food choices for children. Writing for Parents.com, registered dietitian Sally Kuzemchak gives this advice to parents: “‘Clean label’ foods aren’t automatically healthy foods. Gummy fruit snacks are still more like candy than fruit, and animal crackers are still more like cookies than crackers—no matter how ‘clean’ the label is.”
Still, Target’s decision is a step in the right direction for the health and nutrition of children in the United States. Kudos to the chain for their forward-thinking attitude.