Food manufacturers introduce new front-of-pack logo to convey healthy choices

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 10th August 2009

The Smart Choices Program, which will see the introduction of a logo highlighting healthier options on hundreds of products in supermarkets, has just begun in the United States.

The uniform front-of-pack nutrition labelling program, developed by a coalition of scientists, nutritionists, consumer groups and food industry leaders is designed to promote public health by helping shoppers make smarter food and beverage choices within product categories.

A single, green check mark on the front of the product package provides an “at-a-glance” assurance that a product has met nutrition criteria derived from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, reports from the Institute of Medicine and other sources of authoritative nutrition guidance. Qualifying products will also display a calorie indicator on-pack that identifies calories per serving and servings per container.

“The coalition worked very hard to develop nutrition criteria that met the highest of standards and a symbol consumers would appreciate and recognise when making choices at the point of purchase,” Eileen Kennedy, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, advised. “By providing a single, simple communication on the front of the package, the Smart Choices Program can help alleviate confusion in the supermarket and help today’s busy shoppers make smarter choices for their families in store and at home.”

Approximately 500 products from many of America’s largest manufacturers, including ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Sun-Maid, Tyson and Unilever, have already qualified for the Smart Choices Program designation in the program’s 19 categories. By May 2010, more than 1,200 products will feature the symbol and calorie indicator.

“We’re excited and proud to be taking a leading role with other industry members in helping to improve public health across the United States,” John LeBoutillier, Unilever’s Senior Vice President, Foods U.S., reported. “The power of the Smart Choices Program is its basis in collaborative industry development, built on consensus science and its ongoing ability to be flexible and adaptable as nutrition science evolves.”

Nutrition Criteria

To display the Smart Choices Program symbol, a food or beverage cannot exceed standards for specific “nutrients to limit” and, for most categories, must also provide positive attributes, such as “nutrients to encourage” or “food groups to encourage.” Specific qualifying criteria were developed for 19 different product categories, such as beverages, cereals, meats, dairy and snacks.

* Nutrients to limit: total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium.
* Nutrients to encourage: calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E.
* Food groups to encourage: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat or fat-free milk products.

The Smart Choices Program encourages innovation for food and beverage products. The nutrition guidelines are flexible and adaptable, allowing for revisions as new public policy, dietary guidelines and emerging consensus science. The nutritional criteria will be adjusted to reflect the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, should recommendations change.

Program Governance

The American Society for Nutrition (ASN), a leading research society dedicated to nutrition science, and NSF International, a not-for-profit public health organisation that certifies products and writes standards for food, water and consumer goods, now jointly administer the Smart Choices Program and are responsible for evaluating products to ensure they meet the nutrition criteria before receiving the Smart Choices Program symbol.