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Industry halts food label program over FDA concern

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - 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.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-10-23-09 1518EDT


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