Smart Choices Program Halted

October 23/Washington/PRNewswire -- The Smart Choices Program will voluntarily postpone active operations and not encourage wider use of the logo at this time by either new or currently enrolled companies.

This move follows an announcement by FDA commissioner, Margaret Hamburg on October 20, 2009, which said that the agency intends to develop standardized criteria on which future front-of-package nutrition or shelf labeling will be based. In a letter captioned "Guidance for Industry" and posted on its website, the FDA stated, "We want to work with the food industry retailers and manufacturers alike, as well as nutrition and design experts and the Institute of Medicine, to develop an optimal, common approach to nutrition-related FOP... that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets and improve their health."

"We welcome the FDA's interest in developing uniform front-of-package and shelf-labeling criteria," said Mike Hughes, chair, Smart Choices Program and vice president for science and public policy at the Keystone Center. "The Smart Choices Program shares that exact goal and was designed to provide a voluntary front-of-package labeling program that could promote informed food choices and help consumers construct healthier diets. We continue to believe the Smart Choices Program is an important step in the right direction."

The Smart Choices Program will also continue to work with those who have an interest in front-of-package labeling, such as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has asked for information about the development of the program, which the group is providing.

The Smart Choices Program was developed, in part, to respond to earlier governmental calls for a more uniform, voluntary, front-of-package labeling program.

"Our nutrition criteria are based on sound, consensus science," said Hughes, "but with the FDA's announcement this week that they will be addressing both on front-of- package and on-shelf systems, that uniform criteria may follow. It is more appropriate to postpone active operations and channel our information and learnings to the agency to support their initiative."

"The Smart Choices Program stands ready to work with and support the FDA, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Institute of Medicine in this effort," he added.

From the October 26, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition