Friday, November 6, 2009

Smart Choices program put on hold

Around this time last year, I wrote about the introduction of the Smart Choices program. The program was designed by The Keystone Center, a non-profit organization specializing in creating solutions for public health problems. The intent of the program was to create a voluntary front-of-package symbol that identifies more nutritious choices within specific product categories. Some of the major proponents of the labeling system include Coca-Cola, ConAgra, General Mills, Kelloggs, Kraft, Pepsi, Unilever, and Walmart.

Sounds like a good program, right? So why has the program been suspended? Since it's kickoff, Smart Choices has taken a lot of heat for what it considers "nutritious". Critics are concerned that the Smart Choices guidelines are too lenient and are marketing processed foods as nutritious. Some of the products that contain the Smart Choices logo include foods high in sugar, such as Froot Loops cereal and Cracker Jack.

On October 20, 2009, the FDA communicated plans to reassess front-of-package labels and how consumers are interpreting these labels. Quickly after the FDA's announcement, The Keystone Center put a hold on the Smart Choices program. Mike Hughes, Chair of the Smart Choices program and VP for science and public policy at The Keystone Center says, "Our nutrition criteria are based on sound, consensus science. But with the F.D.A.’s announcement this week that they will be addressing both front-of-package and on-shelf systems, and that uniform criteria may follow, it is more appropriate to postpone active operations and channel our information and learnings to the agency to support their initiative."

Smart Choices article

As a consumer, how do you feel about the Smart Choices program? Do you think it is based on sound nutrition guidelines? Are you hoping for more regulated labeling?

As a producer, are you looking for a front-of-package label to put on your nutrtious product? Should this label(s) be designed voluntarily by groups such as The Keystone Center or should it be federally overseen by the FDA or other government agency?

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