This week, NASA scientists announced their plans to find the perfect crop to plant on Mars. The early favorite seems to be the potato.
For some, a planet Mars stocked with only one starchy food is a dream beyond any of Isaac Asimov’s wildest imaginings. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, Mars the company is trying to deter people from their unhealthy habits. Mars, which owns foods brands like Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s, has announced an initiative that would label certain foods—for now, mostly pasta sauces— that are high in sugar, salt, and fat as “occasional” foods.
“As these products are not intended to be eaten daily, Mars Food will provide guidance to consumers on-pack and on its website regarding how often these meal offerings should be consumed within a balanced diet,” wrote Mars’s president, Fiona Dawson.
According to the company, the “occasional” label is reserved for foods that it suggests should only be eaten once a week. The other 95 percent of its products will carry a label designating them as “everyday” foods. As the BBC noted, the U.K.-based National Obesity Forum offered some semi-enthusiastic praise for the initiative, calling it “hugely unusual” and “very imaginative.”
What is both unusual and imaginative about this maneuver is that it essentially amounts to an admission by Mars that some of its products are terrible for you. However, it also comes at a time when government bodies are seeking to define or classify the relative unhealthiness of certain foods—and when companies might see an advantage in getting out ahead of potential regulations.