by Marion Nestle
Oct 15 2009

Connecticut takes on Smart Choices!

Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General, says he is about to conduct an investigation into the Smart Choices program because it is “overly simplistic, inaccurate and ultimately misleading.”   Recall that Froot Loops, a product with sugar as its first ingredient, qualifies as a better-for-you option.  Apparently, Mr. Blumenthal is talking to the Attorneys General of other states and several want to join his investigation.  While they are at it, maybe they should also take a look at the role of the American Society of Nutrition in developing and managing this program.

But count on the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) to defend Froot Loops as a Smart Choice.  Explains ACSH’s Jeff Stier:

Froot Loops and Lucky Charms have the ‘Smart Choices’ label. They have sugar in them, but they also contain half of a person’s daily requirement of some vitamins. If we’re able to give kids those nutrients, it should be okay to give them some sugar. If they sold these products without sugar, kids wouldn’t eat them, or they might end up adding even more on their own….Don’t companies have the right to say those foods are better than others? It’s not as if they are making specific health claims, rather these are just comparative claims.

This Richard Blumenthal is the same one who has been seeking to ban e-cigarettes…Connecticut may have more serious problems to focus on than banning e-cigarettes and worrying about companies trying to point consumers to healthier products. Froot Loops obviously isn’t the healthiest food out there, but it’s better than many others.

It’s that debatable philosophic argument again: Is a so-called “better-for-you” product necessarily a good choice?

[Note: I’m in Rome this week and am most grateful to the six people who sent me the Times article and the two who sent the ACSH post.  Thanks so much!]

  • Cindy

    Here is an article about the salt study I mentioned a few days ago. Haven’t been able to find the paper itself online, though.

  • I dare say the kids would be better off to add their own sugar!…doesn’t one teaspoon equal 4g of sugar? at 12g per 1 cup (and who stops at 1 cup). Try adding 3-5 teaspoons of sugar to your cereal and get a sense for the amount of sugar that’s in there. And it’s okay if there’s sugar for the sake of nutrients? 1/3 kids are going to have diabetes, worse for minority groups. Sugar might be the number 1 health problem facing our nation (unless of course you have all of your fortified nutrients according to this group). ADHD in kids what about the mix of evidence regarding the food colorings that are in the cereal. Preachin to the choir but thought I’d put in my two cents :). Thanks for your work!

  • Anthro

    One could simply laugh at Mr. Stier if the subject weren’t so important to children, especially those suffering from obesity, as Mr. Rinehart points out. Mr. Stier’s comments can only be seen as whining. It is shameful to push the argument that Froot Loops are “better” for a child than, say, a doughnut Is that even true? If you don’t count the vitamins, which are added to the product, and the milk, FL may not be any better than the doughnut. So, perhaps have a doughnut with a glass of milk and a multi-vitamin–sounds tastier to me!

    I’m going to email my governor’s office right now and find out if my state is one of those considering joining this effort.

    A meeting in Rome–how wonderful!

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  • Marion

    @Cindy — Here is the link to the paper:

    I think the study shows how hard it is to do research on salt intake. The range of salt intakes in the study were all at or above recommended levels.

  • susanne

    “It’s not as if they are making specific health claims, rather these are just comparative claims.”

    wrong! it’s called SMART chocies, not SMARTER choices. the title itself implies a specific health claim, and not a comparison.

  • Well Froot Loops is certainly bad for me and I don’t even eat it…their new commercial claiming it’s good for kids because it now has added fiber makes my blood pressure go up every time I see it. This smart choices program has surpassed uselessness and gone on to harmful.

    I don’t think I’ll be taking any nutrition advice from Jeff Stier either.

  • Sara

    “It’s not as if they are making specific health claims, rather these are just comparative claims.”

    No – a comparative claim would read something like “Fruit Loops are better than a giant sticky bun battered and deep-fried”

    I mean what are they comparing these products to? All other foods?

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  • Great that you put this out in the world.. It is sad that the big companies can poison our kids with “healthy” cereals, chockfull of sugar and food colourings – while these have been scientifically proven to provoke ADHD in children. I sent an email to the makers of “Centrum” vitamines for children, also with E124 in it – while that is one of the most accused colourings related to ADHD. Do these guys work together with the Amphetamine-producing industries (Vyvanse for example, the latest ADHD drug, is an Amphetamine. It has just been given exclusive rights for 5 years.. Wondering who is gaining here??). Anyway, Wyeth answered me that E124 is officially allowed by the EU and THUS considered safe for ingestion…
    We are living in a strange world.
    Re. ADHD: I’m using EFT next to diet, and it works wonders in 80% of diagnosed kids on Ritalin. shows a video of what happens to kids with allergies – agression and ADHD at it’s worst.

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