237497 Choosing Front-of-Package Food Labeling Nutrition Criteria: How Smart were “Smart Choices”?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 5:06 PM

Christina A. Roberto, MS, MPhil, MPhil , Department of Psychology/Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Marie A. Bragg, MS , Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Kara Livingston, MPH , Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA
Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Jackie Thompson, BA , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Marissa J. Seamans, BA , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Kelly D. Brownell, PhD , Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Introduction: The “Smart Choices” program was an industry-driven front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labeling system introduced in the United States in August of 2009, ostensibly to help consumers select healthier options when food shopping. Its nutrition criteria were developed by members of the food industry in collaboration with nutrition and public health experts and government officials. The aim of this study was to test the extent to which products labeled as “Smart Choices” would be classified as healthy choices based on the Nutrient Profile Model (NPM), a non-industry developed, validated nutrition standard. Methods: 100 packaged products that qualified for a “Smart Choices” designation were sampled from eight food and beverage categories. All products were evaluated using the NPM method. Results: 64% of the products deemed “Smart Choices” did not meet the NPM standard for a healthy product. Within each “Smart Choices” category: 0% of condiments, 8.70% of fats and oils, 15.63% of cereals, and 31.58% of snacks and sweets met NPM thresholds. All of the sampled soups, beverages, desserts and grains deemed “Smart Choices” were considered healthy by the NPM standard. Discussion: The “Smart Choices” Program is an example of industry attempts at self-regulation. More than 60% of foods that received the “Smart Choices” label did not meet standard nutrition criteria for a “healthy” food choice suggesting that industry involvement in designing labeling systems should be scrutinized. The NPM system may be a good option as the basis for establishing a FOP labeling criteria, though more comparisons with other systems are needed.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related education
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Compare the "Smart Choices" industry-based front-of-package label nutrition criteria and the non-industry based Nutrient Profile Model nutrition criteria. Evaluate the rigor of the "Smart Choices" industry-based front-of-package labeling nutrition criteria Discuss concerns related to industry involvement in developing a front-of-package labeling system

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author because I conduct research on nutrition labeling and food marketing
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.