Remember the notorious Smart Choices program from 2009? Launched in September of that year, it was a front-of-package labeling program — created by a coalition of the usual Big Food suspects (i.e.: ConAgra, Kellogg, General Mills) — meant to “help” shoppers find healthful choices.
The food industry patted itself on the back like never before. Hubris turned into chagrin six weeks later, when the Food and Drug Administration stepped in and asked that Smart Choices be halted because it was misleading and confusing for the general public.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal — who led the investigation into this front-of-package pablum — had the following to say about Smart Choices’ demise (quote courtesy of Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog):
“Food manufacturers now realize that continued use of the logo would only mislead and compound consumer confusion. Other food labels richly deserve the same scrutiny — which we will give them with relish.
My investigation into Smart Choices, now supported by the FDA, continues to seek any scientific research or evidence behind a program that promotes mayonnaise, sugar-loaded cereal and ice cream as Smart Choices.
Many in the food and beverage industry have sugarcoated their labels — diverting and distracting consumers from nutrition truth, and pushing them toward obesity and disease. Self responsibility and good parenting are key to healthy lifestyles, but impossible when food manufacturers misguide them.
Our initiative should send a message to other food manufacturers that labeling must be completely truthful and accurate without hype or spin, especially when appealing to children. I am strongly encouraged by interest in our investigation by other attorneys general who can form a powerful coalition against misleading or deceptive food labeling.”
How does this relate to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics? Well, Smart Choices was unveiled at the organization’s 2008 conference.
Imagine if instead of cheering the food industry on as it essentially healthwashed its own highly processed products, the Academy instead led the charge in protecting the public from more deception and confusion.