Nutrition watchdog, author, and NYU health professor Marion Nestle calls out the ridiculous Smart Choices program this week in her blog, Food Politics.
Smart Choices is a n ew system, designed by food manufacturers and endorsed by the American Society of Nutrition, that identifies so-called healthy foods at the grocery store with big green check mark on the front of the package, visually trumping the hard-to-read nutrition facts label on the side of the box. According to Nestle, companies pay up to $100,000 to sport the logo on their products.
Products that merit the Smart Choices seal of approval include Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Teddy Grahams, Kid Cuisine Carnival Corn Dogs, and Lunchables Chicken Dunks.
As Nestle points out, a glance at the ingredients list of most of these foods reveals that they are anything but healthy. Froot Loops, for example, contains absolutely no fruit, sugar as its #1 ingredient, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and artificial colors. But time-crunched shoppers won’t read the small print -- they’ll see the big check mark (and hear the entreaties of their ad-indoctrinated kids) and throw it in the cart.
The Smart Choices program is a perfect example of what writer Michael Pollan calls “nutritionism”: the erroneous belief that because a food looks good on paper (perhaps it’s low in fat, fortified with added vitamins, or has only 100 calories), it must be good for you, no matter what else it contains, or doesn’t.
If there was ever any doubt that the processed food industry and nutrition policy makers are in bed together, this utterly removes it. Thanks, Marion, for staying on the case!