Smart Choices Program label debuts on packages

August 6, 2009

Hundreds of food and beverage products produced by some of the nation’s largest food companies will soon begin to carry the Smart Choices Program front-of-pack nutrition label. A group of scientists, nutritionists, consumer organizations, and food industry leaders designed the label—a single, green checkmark and a calorie information box—to promote public health by helping shoppers make smarter food and beverage choices.

“The coalition worked very hard to develop nutrition criteria that met the highest of standards and a symbol consumers would appreciate and recognize when making choices at the point of purchase,” said Eileen T. Kennedy, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “By providing a single, simple communication on the front of the package, the Smart Choices Program can help alleviate confusion in the supermarket and help today’s busy shoppers make smarter choices for their families in store and at home.”

The program, which is voluntary, has been under development for a couple of years. This summer marks the first time that consumers will see the label on packages.

Eligible food and beverage products cannot exceed standards for specific “nutrients to limit” and, for most categories, must also provide positive attributes, such as “nutrients to encourage” or “food groups to encourage.” The labeling program is not a one-size-fits-all approach; specific qualifying criteria were developed for 19 different product categories, such as beverages, cereals, meats, dairy, and snacks.

Approximately 500 products from brands, including ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co. (U.S.), Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Sun-Maid, Tyson and Unilever (U.S.), have already qualified for the Smart Choices Program designation. By May 2010, more than 1,200 products will feature the symbol and calorie indicator. Participating companies currently using other “better for you” nutrition labeling symbols have begun replacing them with the Smart Choices Program.

The Smart Choices Program was originally coordinated by The Keystone Center, a non-profit organization that specializes in coalition-based public health solutions.

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