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FDA cracks down on misleading labels

October 21, 2009 12:21:36 AM PDT
You may have noticed the new labels on everything from cereal to crackers, claiming to be healthy products. Well, the government is cracking down. The question is, are those labels helping you make better choices, or misleading you?Eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and General Mills says you've made a healthy choice. Kellogg's Froot Loops does the same also, qualifying for the Smart Choice label.

Consumer advocate Michael Jacobson says a box of Fruit Loops is made up of about 40 percent sugar. And questions rise about whether a box composed of half grain and half sugar is a smart choice.

Or how about Kraft's Strawberry Bagel-fuls, which is stuffed with cream cheese and strawberry puree sweetened with sugar and colored with red dye 40. Yet, it too has a Smart Choice label.

"You have these different conflicting systems and some of them are flawed, that not so healthy foods get the symbol," explained Michael Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Smart Choice is just one of many systems designed by grocery stores, scientists or manufacturers themselves to steer health conscience shoppers to supposedly nutritious products.

That concerns the Food and Drug Administration, which is why the agency has now warned food companies that it is, "analyzing labels that appear to be misleading."

But those behind the Smart Choice label, insist their ranking system is valid.

"It's not the perfect program but it's a program that's going to move America," said Smart Choice board member Richard Khan. "There's nothing about these criteria that are not grounded in science."

But the FDA maintains all these different systems are confusing so it plans to develop a nutritional gold standard for products labeled "healthy." And it may also push for one simple label that everyone would have to use to help shoppers buy smart.


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