Smart Choices 2.0
Remember the late, unlamented “Smart Choices” front-of-package labeling system implemented by various players in the food industry? The industry claimed it was an initiative that would “…help consumers make more nutritious food and beverage choices that fit within their daily calorie needs.” Not surprisingly, “Smart Choices” turned out to be a total farce.
Well, the industry is making another run at it…
WASHINGTON, D.C. – America’s leading food and beverage manufacturers and retailers joined forces today in the fight against obesity and announced their commitment to develop a new front-of-package nutrition labeling system. The unprecedented consumer initiative will make it easier for busy consumers to make informed choices when they shop.
…“America’s food retailers are proud to partner with manufacturers to combat obesity,” said Ric Jurgens, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee, Inc., and current chairman of the FMI board of directors. “We live in a fast-paced world that gets busier by the day. By placing clear and straightforward nutrition information on the front of our packages, we are furthering our industry’s commitment to helping our customers make healthy choices.”
“This is a landmark step forward in the industry’s commitment to help address the obesity challenge,” said David Mackay, president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Company. “It represents the most significant change to food labels in the United States in nearly twenty years. And our commitment to an ambitious consumer education campaign will amplify the impact the labeling change will have in households across the country.”
Think they’re serious? Consumer activist and nutrition author Marion Nestle certainly doesn’t:
Forget the consumer-friendly rhetoric.
There is only one explanation for this move: heading off the FDA’s Front-of-Package (FOP) labeling initiatives.
Only two weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released its first FDA-sponsored FOP labeling report. The IOM committee recommended that FOP symbols only mention calories, sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat. This led William Neuman of the New York Times to summarize its approach as: “Tell us how your products are bad for us.”
GMA and FMI would much rather label their products with all the things that are good about them, like added vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber. If they must do negatives, they prefer “no trans fat” or “no cholesterol.”
I’m with Professor Nestle – after the “Smart Choices” debacle, I doubt that the industry is interested in a truthful front-of-package labeling system. I’d like to be wrong, but I expect it will simply be “Smart Choices 2.0.” Nonetheless, we’ll see soon enough – the GMA press release states that consumers will start seeing the new label “early next year.” I’ll be looking out for it.