After the Smart Choices label, two years in development, was applied to products like Froot Loops and mayonnaise, state and federal authorities have been encouraging companies to stop using it.
PepsiCo and Kellogg's will stop using the Smart Choices label - and the program is mainly on hold until the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) have developed new regulations for front-of-packaging labelling.
The F.D.A. commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg, spoke about the new regulations on food labelling. She didn't single out the Smart Choices logo but described a growing proliferation of symbols that implied products were healthful, and added:
Some nutritionists have questioned whether this information is more marketing-oriented than health-oriented. Judging from some of the labels we've seen, this is a valid concern.
Critics of the Smart Choices program have suggested that Ms Hamburg's concerns are apt. After resigning from the Smart Choices program due to his concerns, Michael F. Jacobson (executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest) said that he believed the food manufacturers involved in the program were trying to prevent government involvement. Back in 2008, he said:
A disinterested funder and committee of experts free of conflicts of interest likely would have rated the healthfulness of foods differently from the 'better for you' Smart Choices Program adopted by the roundtable.
What Scheme Will the F.D.A. Adopt?
Ms Hamburg has mentioned a traffic light labelling system, where products are rated according to different nutritional standards. This system is used in the UK (see example to the right). The New York Times explained that:
Ms. Hamburg said that the front of the package should give shoppers quick access to key dietary information that is already provided in greater detail in the Nutrition Facts box on the back or side of packages.
Does the presence of labels like Smart Choice encourage you to buy certain products? What information would you like to see highlighted on the front of packaging?