A Smart Choice: Government Regulation of Nutrition Claims

Smart Choices ProgramThe not-so-invisible hand of the processed foods marketplace recently created a new food-labeling campaign called “Smart Choices.” The backers of this campaign: some of the nation’s largest processed food manufacturers, including Kraft, Kellogg’s, ConAgra and General Mills.

So what are some Smart Choices?  Cocoa Krispies, Froot Loops, Fudgsicles and Hellman’s Mayonnaise (the real thing, not that light or reduced fat stuff).

Some quotes from a recent New York Times article about Smart Choices:

Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices Board: The program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards.

Where?  At the household of Dan and Roseanne Conner?

Ms. Kennedy: Research into consumer behavior showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.

The researchers never talked to this consumer.  I want a big “hazardous to your health” symbol on all of these foods.  It might cause me to stay in the fresh produce section of my grocery store a little longer.

You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal.  So Froot Loops is the better choice.

And a doughnut is a better choice than rat poison.  Using this tortured logic, isn’t a doughnut also a smart choice?

Celeste Clark, senior vice president for global nutrition for Kellogg’s (oxymoron anyone?):  You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.

Especially when your product is Froot Loops and 41 percent sugar by weight.

Ms. Clark: Small amounts of sugar added to nutrient-dense foods like breakfast cereals can make them taste better.  That, in theory, will encourage people to eat more of them, which would increase the nutrients in their diet.

“Small amounts” as in 41 percent sugar by weight?  Eating ANYTHING with a “nutrient,” including doughnuts, in larger quantities will increase the nutrients in your diet – and make you a star on “The Fatchelor.”

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who resigned from the Board in disgust: You could start out with some sawdust, add calcium or Vitamin A and meet the criteria.

Don’t forget to add a bunch of sugar, Mr. Jacobson.  Note to Self: The Center for Science in the Public Interest website has a nice green (just like the Smart Choices label and those healthy veggies you’ll pass on your way to your grocery store’s Smart Choices aisle) “Donate Now” button.  I think I’ll click it.

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~ by Dennis Taylor on 6 September 2009.

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