Breaking News: 'Smart Choices' Program Halted

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last month, Coach Dean blogged about the Smart Choices program, which puts little green checkmark on "healthier" foods in the supermarket. Products like… Froot Loops, Cracker Jack and frozen meals that contain up to 25% of your daily sodium recommendation.

Dean had doubts about the program, which is sponsored by a group of 10 major food producers, including Kellogg’s, General Mills, ConAgra Foods, Tyson Foods, and PepsiCo. As it turns out, he wasn't the only one.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is examining issues with the front-of-package labeling system, has halted the program, according to an Associated Press report.

The FDA earlier this week released a plan calling for standards for front-of-package labels; the Smart Choices program responded on Friday, saying it would "voluntarily postpone active operations and not encourage wider use of the logo at this time by either new or currently enrolled companies."

According to the program's website, the "Smart Choices Program was motivated by the need for a single, trusted and reliable front-of-pack nutrition labeling program that U.S. food manufacturers and retailers could voluntarily adopt to help guide consumers in making smarter food and beverage choices."

What do you think about the Smart Choices program? Should it be pulled altogether or reinstated? Do you think it offers healthier choices, or do you think it is just a marketing tactic?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I think the concept is great! But there is definitely a need for regulations to help consumers make educated decisions without having to hire an individual nutritionist when trying to read labels.

It could be a good program if it were run by an independent group of Registered Dietitians who can identify truly "healthy" choices as opposed to an industry group that sets its own standards. Report
This is a blatant marketing tactic by big agribusiness. I don't believe these cereals to be nutritious at all. They take out all the good stuff replace it with fake nutrients and HFcorn syrup. Report
Umm is it just me, or is this basically the same core group that want's to help "revamp" our kids school lunch program? If so...., makes you wonder..., Report
I think any system that is supposed to help the public make good food choices CANNOT be run by the companies manufacturing the food. This is particularly true when most of these foods are "manufactured." I used to like the system until I saw Froot Loops had the little check mark. I knew then that I could no longer trust it. I don't have anything against these types of cerals, but come on! We all know they are NOT healthy or a healthy choice! Report
I think it's a good idea -- but it needs a big overhaul. Sugar-laden cereals and fatty snacks should not be able to have the label. If it is actually healthier, then stick it on there. But junk food doesn't qualify. Report
It's better to have an out side organization evaluate and rate food for Smart Choices Made Easy then the big food company to decide. It's just a marketing and it clouds the public's judgments! Report
When I buy an apple, banana, green pepper, tomato etc, I know what I am getting. Anything that is in a container is more questionable and I have to read the label to avoid added sugar and any gluten sources. My husband bought a different brand of "plain" yogurt once and when I read the ingredients and researched one mystery ingredient on the internet, I found it contained gluten. It is crazy, all the things added to packaged foods. Sugar is in practically packaged food sold in the United States. Report
The Health Check icon is the only one I trust on food labels. /
I think everyone should read the food nutrition label, even if the package say's it's healthy. Report
Obviously it was purely a marketing ploy. People want it to be easy and the food giants are willing to play. Problem is; my definition of healthy and their definition of healthy is miles apart. If they truly believe that Fruit Loops are healthy, then they ARE fruit loops !! Pull it, it's a joke. I'll make my own list of healthy foods. AND if I decide to splurge one day and have some Cracker Jacks, I will, but please don't try to convince me they are a healthy choice. Don't insult my intelligence. We have to learn to vote with our wallets. Report
It sounds like the Sparks people are all on the same page with this idea. I was pleased to hear about the project and stilll think it is an idea that might be worth some effort. Still the food they choose are very questionable making one believe that it is a marketing ploy. Report
It sure would have made shopping easier; a few less decisions that needed to be made. BUT the bottom line for me is that these companies are huge and know how to sell... Report
well it sure makes it easier for me even if its not as healthv as it says it still is better than i do on my own Report
I think it makes shopping a lot easier to see smart choice labels. It shows me an alternative to my junk food.
Robyn Report
I agree with Chris3215. Know what you're buying, read the real nutrition label, and beware of false advertising.

I think they might as well dump the whole Smart Choices program since now it's been exposed as extremely clever false advertising. Though I will admit that once in a while, the products are "healthy". I'd never confuse Fruit Loops with Shredded Wheat, however. Report
It would be great for someone/an agency to just tell us what is healthy vs. not but I don't know how realistic that is. I consider myself pretty savvy but yet I'm always learning something new. I was just speaking to my sister about this great fiber cereal I've started eating. My sister pointed out that while it's got a lot of great fiber in the cereal, it also has a lot of corn syrup and other things that are not so healthy. However, I think that there is no substitute for us all becoming better educated. Report
I agree with DINAISPO... foxes guarding the hen house. I'm not sure if government needs to step in with regulations. Perhaps get an independent consumer health watch group involved. Either way, the big food companies should not be pulling the strings and sabotaging our efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle! Report
I never had agreed to the green check that said the product was a healthy choice. I ALWAYS read the lables before I buy. Report
Simply stated, "You do not let the fox guard the henhouse." This is nothing but a self-serving marketing ploy. Dametemplar mentioned that "we do not need paternalism and government interference." For all those that rail against "big government" I would like to remind you that government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Big business is all about profits, more profits, and even more profits. They are always concerned about their bottom line, and it takes far less money to imprint a large green check mark on the front of their package, rather than ensure a more healthy and costlier food product inside their package. Report
When it first began I thought it could be ligit... but then I started noticing and questioning some of the things it was on... very misleading! Everything a marketing company does is a selling tactic. They aren't concerned with our over all health ... they are concerned about making that all mighty buck! Bottom line!...It's our responsiblity to make the choices we think are best for us. It's just sad that some would buy anything simply because it has this mark. Report
I always felt that that was a marketing ploy, there's no way that Fruit Loops is a heathier option that, say, multi grain Cheerios or shredded wheat!! But people shouldn't depend on a little green check mark, we should all be reading nutrition lables and ingredients lists... Report
It could have been a good guide but, they are really only out to sell more of their own products. Report
It's totally a marketing tactic. That green seal shouldn't be on sugary kids cereal or greasy bags of potato chips. It's completely misleading. Report
It is just a marketing tactic. See the documentary movie "Food, Inc." folks; it's very informative and will open your eyes to the high dollar food industry in this country. While ours is a grr8 (great) country we do have room for improvement. Report
This is scary stuff. Makes you wonder about the laws for labels on our food. How honest is everyone? Who gets to determine what is "healthier"??? Report
Ah, dang it!! I really thought the Pop-Tarts were a "Smart Choice"!! I guess it's back to the Fruit Loops...LOL! Report
What a joke! Report
I always search for the details. I work too closely with Marketing to trust their integrity. Report
Instead of using a label mechanism to help people choose foods at a glance they should put their dollars into producing healthier foods and teaching consumers to read food ingredients. Starting with our children. We do points for our schools based off of what we purchase, why not do something similar for changing your lifestyle? Report
Well, Fruit Loops is in the loop, we received a small free package with our Washington Post along with a $1.00 coupon; the package states on the front "with fiber".

Will I eat this? Will I bring it to my granddaughter? I brought it to work and no one has taken it. After tomorrow, I will throw it out and I will also contact the company to tell them what I did with their FREE PRODUCT.

Total MARKETING! Report
Even if this was not sponsored by large companies, I would be skeptical. What does "healthy" really mean? Something different to everyone (low cal, no added sugar, high fiber, low fat, all natural, organic, etc.). Shoppers need to make their own decisions. Report
Marketing for sure! Everyone trying to eat healthy knows what healthy is. All other programs just offer an excuse. Report
I think it's GREAT that the this program is "on-hold". Kudos to the FDA for realizing the label would be meaningless when it goes onto sugary cereal and the like. I wonder if someone in the FDA reads SparkPeople bogs?!? Report
I don't look at "gimmicks" on packages, but actually read the labels. Doesn't Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs have high fructose corn syrup? I don't consider that sweetener healthy in any way. Report
I often have a hard time believing what the FDA has to say. They seem self-serving and perhaps in the pockets of food manufacturers. At last they are doing something sensible. When Fruit Loops made the list of healthy cereals, I couldn't help but wonder who sponsored this program and what their agenda was. Hurray for the FDA for taking a stand and suspending this farce of a labeling system. Report
i'm a skeptic and think that this should be pulled Report
I, myself, actually don't really look at this label and I think it's a marketing tactic. Report
Smart Choices should be pulled from this obvious marketing strategy. I agree with what NANHBH said: the only place for a Smart Choices label (if used) would be on fresh fruit and veggies. Report
It's marketing hype to sell not-so-healthy products. Fruit Loops & Cracker Jack? Come on! The only place this label should appear would be on fruits & veggies. Report
I am glad they were caught trying to pull the same stunts they have been doing the last few decades. Thanks to you and others for educating us on how to sift through the hype and forcing us to take control of ourselves by reading lables.

I think we should continue to educate people about the basics: shop the perimeter of the grocery store etc.

Michael Pollan (author) said it best, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Report
The companies, including Kellogg’s, General Mills, ConAgra Foods, Tyson Foods, and PepsiCo., who have banded together to bring us the Smart Choice Symbol should be ashamed of themselves.

It's a marketing ploy to attract unsuspecting consumers who are not as savvy as those of us here at SparkPeople. If they really care about the consumer they will not say Fruit Loops is a Smart Choice. Perhaps the FDA should come up with a symbol for truly healthy food that is not high in processed sugar, fat, white flour, nitrates, and sodium. Don't let our young children grow up thinking they are making smart choicse by purchasing Cracker Jacks!!! Report
I'm always skeptical about those kinds of claims. I felt it was just a gimmick when I heard about it. The companies don't need to try to pull the wool over our eyes. There will always be plenty of people to buy their products. Report
Unlike the FDA, the companies know their consumers. They know that they want simple ways to make decisions . . . and as long as there is a code among the manufacturers, it is a lot simpler than looking at the nutritional content of dozens of different brands to pick a box of cereal or a can of soup. Most people aren't going to do that. And highlighting the healthier of the alternatives, provides motivation for the companies to change their products to comply. What we don't need is more government interference and paternalism. I like the labels that tell all, but I'm not shopping with two or three children pulling me in different directions or grabbing something for dinner after a long day at work. Yet, I still only check the carbs and if it is within my limit, I buy the first one that is. A smart choice label would have me looking at their products first for the carb count. Report
I think it is a little of this or a little of that. I think the companies behind the program tried to provide a good service for the most part while in return gaining a new marketing tool. Do I believe that all the "Smart Choices" were healthy food...? No. Do I believe that most "Smart Choices" were healthier than the other crap on the shelves...? Yes. I honestly believe they were pushing their more healthier choices with the label, so I don't think any gross misconduct was at play, but healthier doesn't necessarily equal healthy. And I don't think the average consumer realizes that. So the danger is in that they may be led to believe that they are in fact eating healthy when they are not. I think the program should be revamped using new FDA guidelines rather than killing the program off. Report
The nutritional info box that is printed on all packaging is already regulated information. I think that is what people should use to figure out what to eat, instead of relying on anyone else to do the work. It's not as easy a a single brightly-colored logo, but it can't be that easy - there's too much variety in what different people need to be healthy. And if you want to ocassionally indulge in something that might not be good for you, at least do it knowing the caloric and nutritional impact on your individual life plan -- don't seek out a junk food with a "healthy" label on it and deceive yourself into thinking that it's not junk food. Report
Definitely a marketing gimmick. Instead of labels they should educate people more, thanks FDA. Report
The needs of a variety of people cannot be "labeled" with what manufacturers label as "healthy". The best bet is to read the "nutrition facts" on what you are about to buy. This has helped me tremendously!! Report
I think it could be a good idea if it was done right. I think it's sad that companies are using the needs of people to become healthy just to try and make a profit.
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.