Smart Exit?

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the Smart Choices Program, a food labeling system that went into effect this summer. Sponsored by some of the country’s largest food manufacturers, the program features a logo with a green check mark on the front of a food’s package to signify that it has met certain nutritional requirements. However, due to the program’s inclusion of several foods high in sugar or fat — including Froot Loops and regular mayonnaise — the program was criticized by many government and academic nutrition experts.

Now, it seems that the criticism has made an impact. According to an article in The New York Times, PepsiCo announced last week that it was ending all involvement in the program, and Kellogg’s — which received particular scrutiny for its sugary cereals sporting the program’s stamp of approval — announced that it would no longer include the Smart Choices logo on new packaging. In addition, the program itself announced that it would stop recruiting companies to participate. Public outcry is not, apparently, the only reason for this change of direction: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a letter to the program in August expressing its concern that the logo might lead shoppers to make worse — not better — nutritional choices, and the attorney general of Connecticut is investigating whether the logo violates consumer protection laws in the state.

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The FDA also recently announced that it will devise detailed rules for how nutrition information can be displayed on the front of food packaging. According to the FDA commissioner, the rules will focus on making key aspects of a product’s Nutrition Facts label more prominently displayed.

What do you think — should there be standard front-of-package nutrition labeling? What information do you currently look for on package labels? What information would you like to see added or made more prominent? Leave a comment below!

  • Donna Benson

    I look first for carb content per serving (since I use an insulin pump); as well as calories, fat, trans fat and saturated fat, protein and vitamin and mineral content.

  • Lisa Smith RN BSN CDE

    Clearly we need to always have some sort of clear and easy-to-understand system. The general public does not, nor probably will ever be able to understand labeling and make the right choices. For those of use that deal with this on a daily basis – it comes natural and easy. Take for instance – I have no background or educational preparation in the world of finance. Yet, I contantly open the newspaper with financial institutions trying to persuade me to “use” them for my checking, savings, and investments. This can be as confusing to me as my non-nurse, non-dietitian neighbor trying to make a decision about breakfast foods. We are doing better today on labeling than ever. We have to keep up the work in progress!

  • VERNA SMITH

    I LOOK FOR SUGAR, SODIUM, CARBS & CALORIES CONTENT ON FOOD LABELS. I AM A DIABETIC.

  • Becky

    I look at carbs, fiber, and fat content on the nutrition label. I also look for the whole grain label that looks like a stamp.

    I have to take exception to Lisa Smith’s comment that “the general public does not, nor probably will ever be able to understand labeling or make the right choices.” It isn’t rocket science and I think most people with diabetes who have taken a Diabetes Management class are able to understand the labels. Whether they make the right choices or not is a decision they make for themselves. I certainly have no trouble understanding the labels.
    Becky