retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports this morning that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will propose new standards early next year for companies to follow when developing nutrition labels that go on the front of packages.

The announcement comes after a controversy erupted over the use by Kellogg’s of the Smart Choices label on its Froot Loops sugared cereal, not to mention other foods not generally considered to be nutritious, and is seen as a direct challenge to the validity of the program, which was developed both by health organizations and manufacturers.

According to the story, the new rules “could force manufacturers to deliver the bad news with the good, putting an end to a common practice in which manufacturers boast on package fronts about some components, such as vitamins or fiber, while ignoring less appealing ingredients, like added sugar or unhealthy fats.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said that “it is clear that at the present time this vast array of different approaches is adding confusion rather than clarity. We believe we can offer important benefits in terms of developing the science- and nutrition-based criteria for the use of dietary guidance claims.”

Pamela G. Bailey, president/CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), released a statement saying that “we look forward to working with the FDA to determine what nutrition information is most useful in providing consumers with the tools they need to help them build a healthful diet.”
KC's View:
The FDA had no choice but to do this. And while the Smart Choices folks seem confident when they say they are comfortable with their ratings, it is hard to imagine that they aren’t sweating just a little bit right now. And they should. Because it seems to me that they have made some poor choices. They deserve whatever happens to them.