by Marion Nestle
Oct 23 2009

Smart Choices suspended! May it rest in peace.

Big news!  According to an AP report today, the group that runs the Smart Choices program has announced that it will “postpone” active recruitment of new products and will not encourage use of the logo while the FDA is in the process of examining front-of-package labeling issues.

Who says the FDA does not have any power?  I think it does.  And let’s welcome it back on the job.

As for my nutrition colleagues in the American Society of Nutrition, the group that competed to manage the program and has been defending it ever since, here’s what they now say:

Dear ASN Member,

Today the Smart Choices Program announced the decision to voluntarily postpone active operations and not encourage wider use of the Smart Choices Program logo. This move follows an announcement by FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, M.D. on Oct. 20, 2009, which said that the agency intends to develop standardized criteria on which future front-of-package (FOP) nutrition or shelf labeling will be based. In a letter captioned, “Guidance for Industry” and posted on its website, the FDA stated: “We want to work with the food industry − retailers and manufacturers alike − as well as nutrition and design experts and the Institute of Medicine, to develop an optimal, common approach to nutrition-related FOP and shelf labeling that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets and improve their health.”

ASN commends the FDA on its announcement of intent to develop standardized criteria on which front-of-pack nutrition and shelf labeling could be based. In addition, ASN fully supports the decision of the Smart Choices Program Board of Directors to postpone their active operations as FDA works to address both front-of-pack and on shelf labeling.  “ASN will continue to provide nutrition science expertise within the dialogue on front-of-pack labeling in order to best serve the interests of the health of Americans,” said ASN President Jim Hill in a statement to media.


ASN Executive Board

As I have explained in previous posts about Smart Choices, the ASN should never have gotten involved in this dubious enterprise in the first place.  The organization was lucky to get out of this so easily.  I hope it does not make the same mistake again.

The press had a field day with the Smart Choices logo on Froot Loops.  As Rebecca Ruiz at Forbes puts it, “the uproar over the program has conveyed a definitive message to industry: Don’t try to disguise a nutritional sin with a stamp of approval.”


Thank YOU (and your colleagues)for your efforts on publicizing the idiocity of this program. Don’t think the FDA would have acted on their own

  • Jill
  • October 23, 2009
  • 10:42 pm

Let’s just hope the FDA won’t be unduly influenced by industry and we end up with the same problem in the end – only then with the stamp of FDA approval…


Very Smart Choice.

Now if we can end the ridiculousness of the sugar-sweetened, highly processed, whole-grain-added commercials of “Honey” Nut Cheerios claiming that “You’ll Love Lowering Your Cholesterol”, we would be much better off. Lower your cholesterol by a fraction of a point, but raises your triglycerides.

Why are disease-related claims allowed on foods? We know that the companies that can afford to print the labels to display such malarkey are manufacturers who have “added value” (i.e. removed the fresh-wholesomeness from which this food-like-product came) to a highly processed food.
The kale and the blueberries sit silently in the market. When it comes to protecting your health, you better watch out (and include mostly) those quiet ones.

  • Daniel
  • October 24, 2009
  • 10:14 am

Marion you are too modest not to take at least a modicum of credit for publicizing and exposing this entire scandalous labeling story in the first place! Nice work.

Casual Kitchen

  • Anthro
  • October 24, 2009
  • 9:43 pm

Yay! Thanks Marion, for keeping up with this and for not getting involved with this group’s shenanigans.

I would echo Jill’s concern. The way the FDA statement is worded, the door seems wide open for lots of compromising.

[...] it's celebration time at sundry food and nutrition blogs, including the "Food Politics" blog of New York University professor Marion Nestle. "Who says the FDA does not have any [...]

[...] post on nutrition expert Marion Nestle’s blog, Food Politics (you can find this under “Blog [...]

  • Michelle
  • October 28, 2009
  • 5:12 pm

I just want to join in applauding Marion for bringing awareness to this issue concerning the Smart Choices program and encouraging dialogue about food labeling and health claims in a broad sense. The suspension of Smart Choices is a step in the right direction and I do not want to take away from this huge victory, but the battle is not over until we see what standardized criteria the FDA comes up with. The FDA is in a great position right now to make some much-needed changes to front-of-package labeling and create a system based on sound nutrition science and common sense that actually helps Americans make not only better, but also truly healthy, food choices. Let’s hope the FDA delivers!

[...] Food Politics: Smart Choices Suspended Last week, it was in trouble. This week, Smart Choices is kaput. [...]

[...] Smart Choices suspended! May it rest in peace. <<Nuf said. (Food Politics) [...]

[...] Food Politics: Smart Choices Suspended Last week, it was in trouble. This week, Smart Choices is kaput. [...]

Hello Marion-

WHAT-A-COUP!! And to think, you could have been on their “advisory board”!

Today …Smart Choices; Tomorrow… NABISCO (and those AD agencies who do their bidding)!

Hope all’s well on the Best Coast… from rainy Portland’s Left Coast,
-Janet Guss

[...] Food Politics: Smart Choices Suspended Last week, it was in trouble. This week, Smart Choices is kaput. [...]

[...] Food Politics: Smart Choices Suspended Last week, it was in trouble. This week, Smart Choices is kaput. [...]

[...] Food Politics: Smart Choices SuspendedLast week, it was in trouble. This week, Smart Choices is kaput. [...]

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