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FDA Wary of 'Smart Choices' Label

The Food and Drug Administration has written a letter to the manager of the Smart Choices program, a front-of-package labeling scheme that is supposed to let consumers know which products are better for their health. The letter [PDF] -- which nutritionist Marion Nestle posted on her blog -- doesn't have any specific demands or complaints, but it does have a "we'll be keeping an eye on you" feel to it.
FDA and FSIS would be concerned if any FOP [front-of-pack] labeling systems used criteria that were not stringent enough to protect consumers against misleading claims; were inconsistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; or had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Nestle herself points out that Froot Loops are among the products touted by Smart Choices. The program uses special, lax criteria for sugary breakfast cereals, apparently. The FDA letter says that the danger of programs like Smart Choices is that "people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts label on the back or side panel of foods" -- which could lead someone to conclude that Froot Loops are healthy, rather than being merely a little bit less unhealthy than competing products.

The sugary cereals exemption also renders worthless Kraft's boasting that it will only market products to children if those products have been approved by Smart Choices.

Related Stories on BNET: 'Smart Choices' Label Dumbs Down Nutrition