Criteria for Smart Choices program called into question

by Eric Schroeder
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HARTFORD, CONN. — Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Oct. 15 launched an investigation into the consumer research and selection criteria driving the Smart Choices labeling program that features products from several major food manufacturers, including The Kellogg Co., PepsiCo, Inc., and General Mills, Inc.

"These so-called Smart Choices seem nutritionally suspect — and the label potentially misleading," Mr. Blumenthal said. "The Smart Choices label adorns sugar-laden cereals appealing to children, but not many healthier breakfast choices. Our investigation asks what objective scientific standards, research or factual evidence justify labeling such products as ‘smart.’

"Our question is: explain the smart in Smart Choices. What is so smart about mayonnaise, Froot Loops and Cocoa Puffs? Sugar-coated cereals may be nutritionally sounder than some fast food — but hardly smart. Such wholesale health claims may mislead consumers into malnutrition. Busy moms and dads deserve truth in labeling — particularly when their children’s health is at stake."

Responding to Mr. Blumenthal’s letter requesting information on the Smart Choices program, Mike Hughes, chair of the Smart Choices program, said the organization is "fully cooperating" and "taking this opportunity" to provide information on the program.

"The Smart Choices program was developed during an open and lengthy collaborative process that included some of the most experienced and accomplished professionals in nutrition science," Mr. Hughes said. "The program is based on the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and aligns with the National Academy of Sciences Dietary Reference Intakes. It is designed to include foods in every aisle of the supermarket, from fresh to packaged foods.

"We believe that by developing consistent criteria for better choices among hundreds of products across the supermarket, we are taking an important step in the right direction to help consumers."

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