The XX Factor

The Smart Choices Food Label Is Really Dumb

Today’s rant: I am fuming over the new Smart Choices food label, which the NYT reported on here . It’s a label from most of the big food companies - not the FDA or any other part of the government - that converts Froot Loops, first among other Dumb Choices, into a supposedly healthy food. I mean, really, this is crazy: A serving of Froot Loops has 12 grams of sugar, and sugar is 41 percent of its weight. The response from the academic who has somehow agreed to chair the Smart Choices board, Eileen T. Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, is that at least parents will know when they get to the supermarket that Froot Loops is a better choice for their kids’ breakfast than doughnuts. Why should we ever set the bar that low? What’s distressing is that once this green checkmark label becomes ubiquitous, precisely because of the backing of the big food companies, it will look like it’s an official seal of approval from the FDA or another government agency, simply because it’s everywhere.

The only consolation is that the protests over this seem to have prompted the FDA to ask for public comments about food labels like this one. The agency is supposed to look at people’s beliefs about health, diet, how they use labels, and also demographics. More here from Marion Nestle , professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is one academic who is standing up to the industry.