FDA Cracks Down on Smart Choices

By Marion Nestle

The FDA has a new "Dear Industry" letter announcing that it is going to set some rules for those "better-for-you" stickers on the front of junk food packages. Why? "FDA's intent is to provide standardized, science-based criteria on which FOP [front of package] nutrition labeling must be based."

What this is about, of course, is all those self-endorsement labels food companies like PepsiCo (Smart Spot), Kraft (Sensible Solution), and many companies collectively (Smart Choices) have been putting on their products.

The companies set up their own nutrition criteria and then applied those criteria to their own products. Surprise! A great many of their products qualified for the "better-for-you" labels.

I'm guessing Smart Choices was the final straw for the FDA. The idea that the Smart Choices check mark could go onto Froot Loops was so astonishing, and the subject of so much ridicule, that the FDA had to act. If nutrition criteria are developed independently, most junk foods would not qualify.

The FDA also says it will be testing how well consumers understand different kinds of package labels. It gives a bunch of examples. Want to know how the FDA is thinking about this? Check out its handy backgrounder, which if nothing else is an excellent introduction to the entire issue of front-of-package labels.

Have a preference about what to use? Write the FDA at this address:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the title of the guidance document: Guidance for Industry: Letter Regarding Point of Purchase Food Labeling.



For more from Marion Nestle on the Smart Choices program, click here, here, here, and here.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/10/fda-cracks-down-on-smart-choices/28744/