PORTLAND, Ore. – The Smart Choices nutrition labeling program, created voluntarily by nine large U.S. manufacturers, is halting after federal regulators said such systems could mislead consumers, officials with the labeling group said Friday.
Industry leaders launched the program this year to highlight foods that meet certain nutritional standards with a green label on package fronts.
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that such programs may mislead consumers about the health benefits of certain foods, and it told manufacturers it will crack down on inaccurate labeling. It did not criticize specific products or label programs or give a timeline for enforcement.
Food makers, grocers, health organizations and others have created an array of voluntary nutrition labeling programs. Regulators say the breadth of criteria can confuse consumers.
Smart Choices, which includes Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Inc. and General Mills Inc., has been criticized for including processed foods that are high in sugar, such as Froot Loops cereal and Cracker Jack snack food.
Officials with Smart Choices in Washington, D.C., said Friday that the group will "postpone" active operations and not encourage wider use of the logo while the FDA investigates labeling issues.
Smart Choices stood behind its nutritional criteria, saying the program's criteria are based on federal dietary guidelines and its efforts are a step in the right direction. Board member Richard Kahn said the group supports the FDA's effort.
"The impetus for the Smart Choices program was that there were and are too many systems," he said. "We applaud the concept of having one system nationwide."
He noted the group informed the FDA about Smart Choices during all stages of its development.
Manufacturers that currently use the logo can continue to do so, Kahn said.
The FDA said it is working to define the criteria manufacturers must meet to make certain nutrition claims on product fronts. The agency plans to work with manufacturers, nutritionists and others to design a standardized system to help consumers select healthy foods.