WASHINGTON — The Smart Choices label will be phased out by Kellogg, Kraft Foods, General Mills, PepsiCo, ConAgra Foods and Unilever as they run through current inventories of Apple Jacks, Wheat Thins, Skippy Peanut Butter and other product bearing the seal, the companies told SN.
Food companies with products enrolled in the fee-based program were given the option to continue using the label, even as the program's facilitator announced last month it would not encourage wider use of the logo by either new or currently enrolled companies.
The Smart Choices Program's decision to postpone active operations came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would review on-pack nutrition rating programs for violations of federal regulations.
“Some nutritionists have questioned whether this information is more marketing-oriented then health-oriented,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “And judging from some of the labels that we've seen, we think that this is a valid concern.”
Hamburg twice referenced Smart Choices during her statement.
She also expressed the agency's intent to develop standardized criteria on which future front-of-package nutrition or shelf-labeling must be based.
The Smart Choices Program is prepared to revise nutritional criteria for its label, if need be. Either way it will continue to market the program once a decision has been reached.
“The reason why we're not encouraging wider use of the logo at the moment is because we want to be guided by the science and the information that comes out of the FDA,” Dr. Eileen Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board, told SN. “If that guidance indicates that our criteria needs to be tweaked, we will do that.”
Despite phasing out the seal's use, some companies remain committed to the Smart Choices Program.
“Unilever will continue to support the SCP coalition's nutritional and scientific efforts while awaiting FDA guidance,” the company said.
Though it's unclear whether PepsiCo will adopt a revised version of Smart Choices, it is interested in helping develop the best program for shoppers.
“We remain committed to helping consumers make healthier food and beverage choices and we look forward to working with the FDA on creating a meaningful program for consumers,” spokesman Dave DeCecco said.
Kellogg is likewise offering its support to the FDA.
“We look forward to sharing our insights and actively engaging with the FDA in this process,” said spokeswoman Kris Charles.
Tyson is another company whose products qualified for the symbol's use. But it won't have to make any changes since after reviewing Smart Choices, it decided to take a different route.
“While we expressed some initial interest, we never signed up,” said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson. “We decided to devote our resources elsewhere.”
It remains to be seen whether companies discontinuing the program's use will be refunded their Smart Choices enrollment fees. The Smart Choices Program couldn't be reached for comment.