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Smart Choices Suspends Operations

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Three days after the Food and Drug Administration notified the food industry that it would begin reviewing all nutrition labeling programs, the much-maligned Smart Choices program announced it would “voluntarily postpone operations and not encourage wider use of the logo” for the time being.

smart-choices_logo.jpgCritics of Smart Choices, who included Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, said the program’s nutritional criteria was too lenient, allowing products like Froot Loops cereal and the popcorn-based Cracker Jack snack to qualify for the green checkmarked logo.

In a written statement, posted in the media section of the Smart Choices website, Mike Hughes, program chairman and vice president for science and public policy at the Keystone Center, said he welcomes FDA's interest in developing uniform front-of-package and shelf-labeling criteria.

"The Smart Choices Program shares that exact goal, and was designed to provide a voluntary front-of-package labeling program that could promote informed food choices and help consumers construct healthier diets. We continue to believe the Smart Choices Program is an important step in the right direction," he wrote.

Smart Choices was unveiled earlier this year by a group that includes the largest U.S. food manufacturers — Kellogg’s, General Mills, Kraft Foods, among others.

When the FDA announced its intentions earlier this week, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg mentioned Smart Choices twice by name, a clear indication that the program would likely be among the first to have its nutritional criteria investigated for violations.

In his statement, Hughes reiterated his stance that Smart Choices is based on “sound, consensus science.”

"But with the FDA's announcement this week that they will be addressing both on front-of-package and on-shelf systems, and that uniform criteria may follow, it is more appropriate to postpone active operations and channel our information and learnings to the agency to support their initiative,” he stated.

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