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Since When Did Fruit Loops Become A "Smart Choice"?


This just in: foods with "fruit" in their names are not always good for you. Also key: foods with the "Smart Choice" label aren't always healthy, nor will they make you more intelligent.

From last week, you may remember Michael Pollan's article,"Dietary Dos and Don't," where he criticizes the "Smart Choices check mark," stating:

"When Froot Loops can earn a Smart Choices check mark, a new industry wide label that indicates a product’s supposed healthfulness, we know we can’t rely on the marketers, with their dubious health claims."

Well, Pollan's voice, along with many others', was heard. This week, the FDA announced that it's going to start regulating front of package (FOP) food labels.

You've probably noticed the many FOP "health" labels put out by self-endorsed food companies like "PepsiCo (Smart Spot) and Kraft (Sensible Solution)."

By regulating package labels, the FDA hopes to develop a uniform, "science based" standard that provides consumers with honest nutritional information. In their letter regarding "point of purchase food labeling", the FDA states:

Although all symbol programs intend to indicate that the food products with their symbol are healthful choices, each symbol program has different nutritional criteria... FDA's research has found that with FOP labeling, people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts label on the information panel of foods... it is thus essential that both the criteria and symbols used in front-of-package labeling be nutritionally sound, well-designed to help consumers make informed and healthy food choices, and not be false or misleading.

On top of all this FOP labeling crackdown, the Cornucopia Institute, a public interest group that's centered around local food, is accusing Target of misleading customers into thinking that some of their usual food products are organic.

In their research, Cornucopia found that the Target corporation nationally marketed Silk soy-milk as an organic product in their newspaper ads. However, Dean Foods, the Silk manufacturer, has turned away from organic products.

The lesson here? Wherever you shop, keep an eye out for misleading claims about the nutritional value of a product.

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