A few weeks ago I wrote about the food labeling program where certain food products were being marked as Smart Choices to encourage people to make better decisions about the foods they were purchasing. The problem I wrote about was that the labels were going on foods like Froot Loops and Pops cereals. This week the program suspended its operations and many of the participants will be phasing out the labels on their products. State and Federal authorities believed that the program would mislead consumers about the nutritional value of the foods that carried the label.
The FDA sent a letter to the program in August that expressed its concern that the program would encourage people to purchase the packaged foods over fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the FDA put out a letter to the food industry this week that called for the industry to move to a voluntary “common set of mandatory nutritional criteria that consumers can rely on when they view FOP [Front of Packaging] labels.” One of the concerns of the FDA is the way that consumers respond to front of package labeling which they worry may be “confusing” or “counter-productive.” The letter states that people are less likely to read the nutrition facts panel if there is a front of package claim. The ultimate goal is to help consumers make informed decisions and “build better diets and improve their health.” Smart Choices voluntarily suspended the program citing that they had the same goals as the FDA.
While the companies who had used the Smart Choices labels were interested in luring adults to their products, often times food marketing is geared at children. Corporate Accountability International is launching a campaign to demonstrate how Ronald McDonald is used as a marketing tool focused on children. They cite Jim Skinner, the CEO of McDonald’s statement that “Ronald has never sold food to kids in the history of his existence,” and they are asking people to help document when and where the clown shows up.