A new food-labeling campaign called Smart Choices, backed by most of the nation’s largest food manufacturers, is “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.”
Two “Smart Choices”: Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops.
Eileen T. Kennedy, “president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University,” says, yes, these are smart choices:
“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”
If this was a movie, critics would say it was left-wing propaganda, with Dr. Kennedy a straw man.
Speaking of straw, that would probably be a Smart Choice too:
“You could start out with some sawdust, add calcium or Vitamin A and meet the criteria,” Mr. Jacobson [executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest] said.
Interestingly, part of the argument folks like Dr. Kennedy are making in favor of Smart Choices is that it’s based on research on how the non-rational ways people actually make decisions:
She said the program was also influenced by research into consumer behavior. That research showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.
“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ”
Ditto for Dr. Clark, another member of the Smart Choices board, who argues
the program’s standard for sugar in cereals was consistent with federal dietary guidelines that say that “small amounts of sugar” added to nutrient-dense foods like breakfast cereals can make them taste better. That, in theory, will encourage people to eat more of them, which would increase the nutrients in their diet.
Given what a sad excuse for propaganda this program is, is it really worth it for the food companies?
For starters, it’s dirt cheap. Depending on sales of their products with the seal, companies pay up to $100K a year — less than a 20th of a TV buy. In fact, it’ll save some companies money:
In joining Smart Choices, the companies agreed to discontinue their own labeling systems, Ms. Kennedy said.
And it’s a percentage game. If just some people some of the time use the Smart Choices label as an excuse — say, to give into their four-year-old’s insistence that they HAVE to have Fruit Loops — it’s a win. CBS already found one small victory:
Shopper Laurie Adams told us that she believed the green check mark meant that the product was a healthy choice.
The FDA isn’t going to stop this pathetic-but-profitable propaganda push, but they told the program they’ll be watching,
saying they intended to monitor its effect on the food choices of consumers.
The letter said the agencies would be concerned if the Smart Choices label “had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
Should be interesting to see what they find — and yet another chance to measure exactly how much People Aren’t Calculators.