Saturday, September 5, 2009

NYTimes Article: Froot Loops Are Health Food

Link to article

You may soon be seeing the new "Smart Choices" labels on products at your grocery store. Several manufacturers- such as Kellogg's, Kraft, and PepsiCo- have banded together to label certain products as "better for you" options. They formed a committee, including the dean of Tufts University school of nutrition and representatives of each the cooperating corporations, in order to decide which foods would meet their criteria to receive the Smart Choices green checkmark logo.

Now here's the problem. Can we honestly think that giant processed-food manufacturing companies are going to put consumers' best interests ahead of their own financial interests? I'm going to go with, "Uh, no."

So what foods have made the list? You can do a search online for products by brand or by category. It's rather amusing to look at the contradictions. All-Bran and Corn Pops are both Smart Choices? Or as the article points out, both regular AND "light" mayonnaise are Smart Choices too? So, according to the Smart Choices program, it seems there is no substantial nutritional difference between those products. Also included as a Smart Choice: Fruit Roll-Ups. Never mind that in a 14g serving, 7g is pure sugar. A Smart Choice can be made of 50% sugar? Seriously, did a group of 7 year olds put this list together?

By artificially enhancing a food with little to no nutritional value, manufacturers can slap a Smart Choice label on a product. (Coming soon to a store near you: Bacon! Now with added calcium!) And by doing this, they can still claim they are following federal nutrition guidelines. This is a complete scam on the American public and an insult to our intelligence. There's hope though: The FDA has written a letter to the Smart Choices program to put the committee on notice that they'll be facing regulatory scrutiny. Let's hope they're willing to put some muscle behind the criticism. No, it's not easy to altogether avoid processed foods. But as consumers we can learn to read nutrition labels and make better choices without some silly checkmark contrivance.


  1. Ugh, this is infuriating. A friend of mine is in the nutrition program at Tufts and she's seriously ready to drop out over this.

  2. Well, the dean allegedly receives no compensation for sitting on the panel, but I find that hard to believe. Why else would she get in bed with these megacorporations but for money? I doubt she can genuinely believe in the products that have been dubbed smart choices. She'd have to ignore years of her own study and research.