In late October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a strong warning that the agency was considering taking regulatory action against food manufacturers that make inaccurate and misleading health claims on product
labels. In particular, the FDA questioned the Smart Choices Program “front-
of-pack” labeling system, which has liberally awarded positive green check marks to sugary cereals, such as General Mills Cocoa Puffs® and Kellogg’s®
Froot Loops® and Frosted Flakes®.

The food industry launched the Smart Choices labeling scheme this past fall across the country to provide an “at-a-glance assurance” so consumers could identify foods that have met science-based nutrition criteria in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Almost immediately thereafter, nutrition experts were questioning the validity of many of the health claims on labels and whether the system was more concerned with marketing than nutrition, with some critics going so far
as to call the entire Smart Choices system a blatant failure.

Within days of receiving the FDA’s warning letter, the nine major companies involved in the Smart Choices program voluntarily halted promotion of their nutrition labeling. Officials representing these companies said that the group would postpone active operations and not encourage wider use of the Smart Choices logo while the FDA is investigating the issue.