Conn. A.G. begins investigation into Smart Choices food‏ labeling

By Nick Rees | Oct 15, 2009

Richard Blumenthal (D)

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut's attorney general has launched an investigation into the so-called "Smart Choices" national food label program that endorses mayonnaise, sugar-laden cereals and other nutritionally suspect foods.

"These so-called Smart Choices seem nutritionally suspect -- and the label potentially misleading," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "The Smart Choices label adorns sugar-laden cereals appealing to children, but not many healthier breakfast choices. Our investigation asks what objective scientific standards, research or factual evidence justify labeling such products as 'smart.'"

Foods that are emblazoned with the Smart Choices symbol range from Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise in its light and non-light versions, Breyers ice cream, and such sugary processed cereals as Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies, Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs.

"Our question is: explain the smart in Smart Choices. What is so smart about mayonnaise, Froot Loops and Cocoa Puffs?" Blumenthal said. "Sugar-coated cereals may be nutritionally sounder than some fast food - but hardly smart. Such wholesale health claims may mislead consumers into malnutrition. Busy moms and dads deserve truth in labeling - particularly when their children's health is at stake.

For beverages, Smart Choices only endorses the Lipton product line, leaving the vast majority of healthier beverages off of its list.

"At a time when healthcare efforts rightly focus on prevention of obesity and malnutrition, false and misleading labels may derail, destroy and delay such laudable national goals," Blumenthal said. "Meaningful nutritional information is welcome, but not faux food facts."

Blumenthal, as part of his investigation into Smart Choices Program, Inc., has requested information from NSF International and the American Society for Nutrition, the organizations that administer the program. Blumenthal has also requested information from major food manufacturers, including Kellog Company, PepsiCo, Inc., and General Mills, Inc., whose products bear the Smart Choices Label.

Blumenthal is seeking details about the selection criteria for the Smart Choices program as well as the consumer research performed. He also is investigating the process and fees involved in administering the program and information on any payments or developmental roles that major food manufacturers might have provided the program.

"We have serious concerns about the research and reasoning behind a program that promotes fat-saturated mayonnaise and sugar-studded cereals as nutritional smart choices," Blumenthal said. "These concerns - potentially misleading and deceptive labeling of nutritional value - apply to other supposed Smart Choices label products marketed to adults as well as children."

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