Smart Choices Labels Suspended After FDA Warning

“Smart Choices” labeling, a “front-of-packaging” <"">food labeling system created and paid for by the food industry has come under fire and was just suspended, reported the Washington Post. The system became popular following the designation of Froot Loops as being deemed nutritious, a surprise given the cereal’s sweet reputation, said the Washington Post.

Although consumer advocates and experts in nutrition have long been calling for a system such as Smart Choices, many now believe the recently halted system was misleading consumers, said the Washington Post. Among those concerned with the recently launched labeling system were the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney General for Connecticut, added the Washington Post. Now, officials with the Smart Choices program say they will work with the agency to create a “universal front-of-package labeling system,” said the Washington Post.

We have long been writing about issues with false labeling claims and consumers being bombarded with confusing labels that change from manufacturer to manufacturer. For instance, we have written about General Mills, Coca Cola Company, and Kellogg’s being among some big name food manufacturers who have been criticized for making false claims on their products’ labels.

We recently wrote that the FDA announced plans to step up its activities on food companies making bogus claims on packaging and labeling, citing The Money Times. According to The Money Times, the practice of using catchy packaging with claims about nutritional value and improved health have become routine in marketing efforts to draw in consumers. But, it is against federal law to make false, “ambiguous” claims on food labels and being caught doing so can lead to “warning letters,” “fines,” and/or “product seizures,” said The Money Times.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg stated that the agency noted, for example, that foods that were at least 50 percent sugar indicating a “Smart Choices” checkmark; some foods boast high percentages of recommended daily vegetable allowances without mentioning that the foods also contain a whopping 80 percent of the daily fat limit, said The Money Times last week.

This year we wrote that General Mills was in trouble over health claims it had been making over its popular cereal, Cheerios. The Associated Press (AP) reported previously that federal regulators were miffed over the cereal giant’s claims that Cheerios can lower cholesterol and treat heart disease; claims, says the FDA, that are only allowable on FDA-approved medications. Another cereal giant, Kellogg Company, agreed to settle charges earlier this year with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it used false advertising to tout Frosted Mini-Wheats. National television ads falsely boasted benefits children receive after eating a breakfast of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats, saying that children who eat the breakfast cereal experience a 20 percent improvement in attentiveness over children who skipped breakfast, reported the SF Gate in a prior report, citing the FTC.

In January we wrote about how the Coca-Cola Company was being sued over false claims about some of its beverages, including Diet Coke Plus, in its second such scandal over deceptive marketing practices. According to a previous Reuters article, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) was suing the soft drink giant in a class action lawsuit that accused it of making false claims about its Vitaminwater drinks.

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