USDA Unveils New Food Icon

June 2, 2011
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The new food icon, designed to help clarify choices for consumers confused by the decades-old pyramid graphic, was unveiled on June 2 by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Government officials are getting ready to serve up nutritional advice to the nation in a more appetizing way. On June 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a replacement to its much-maligned food pyramid, doing away with the rainbow-striped triangle with a staircase edge in favor of a simple circle designed to evoke a dinner plate, divided in four quadrants-fruits, vegetables, grains and protein (meat and beans). Dairy occupies a circle to the upper right of the plate. A plate symbol provides an easy-to-understand visual of how much of different types of foods Americans should be eating each day.

The decades-old food pyramid was replaced with the plate-shaped icon, which experts say better depicts the balance of food groups recommended in a healthful diet. First Lady Michelle Obama and agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack presented the new healthy eating guide.

The icon is part of a new initiative to stress habits such as eating less, filling up half your plate with fruits and vegetables and drinking more water. The USDA first introduced the food pyramid in 1992.

“The [new icon will] go a long way to producing something that is actually useful for nutritionists and dietitians in the United States,” says James Painter, a food psychologist and registered dietician at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. The key, says Painter, is that the new graphic could give viewers a quick idea of what their meals should look like when they sit down at the table.

Advances in nutrition science and pressure from food producers prompted changes that culminated in 2005's My Pyramid. Six different stripes representing grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, milk, meats and beans radiate down from the apex, eliminating what some saw as an overemphasis on grains in the previous design. A stylized stick figure was shown running up stairs on the left slope to convey the importance of exercise. But the icon showed no actual foods and required consumers to go online to get specific information on what they should be eating.

So far, representatives from food industry trade groups are reacting positively to the change. The American Bakers Association, Washington, D.C., reported that it’s coordinating the joint response by a dozen groups representing the grain industry. This includes a joint press meeting with members of its nutrition advisory committee to discuss the impact of the new icon on grain foods.

Source:, ABA News Digest

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