OK, so here we go: Nutrition-at-a-Glance. The new Smart Choices Program is officially rolling out, supported by some of the biggest retail and manufacturer names in the business.
Wal-Mart, Wegmans and ShopRite distributor Wakefern are on board. Companies like General Mills, PepsiCo and Nestle are signed up, and the American Dietietic Association has given the program its blessing (along with the Ameican Diabetes Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation).
The program relies on the logo shown at right, which will be placed on the front of packaging. Companies using the symbol are expected to use the Smart Choices information rather than the ones they’ve been using up until now (goodbye, Smart Spot!).
According to the program’s overseers, Smart Choices is different from other labeling systems (like Guiding Stars and NuVal) because it's based on the largest consensus currently at work in the industry, ranging from individual diet experts to food companies to public health associations.
It certainly helps that the largest food companies are involved, because it means there will be a critical mass of uniformity, regardless of retailer or geography. There are private-label implications here, as well, as participating retailers start to submit their own-brand products for review.
Plus, more companies are going to have to reformulate products if they want the logo. Just checking sodium, for instance, I see that the entrees/main dishes category — a notorious haven for hidden sodium — is limited to 600 mgs max per serving.
Any guidance for consumers is great, and all the programs out there have merit. But it might be time for us to start moving to a single standard. Ideally it would come from the U.S. government. But Smarter Choices, which is based on the government’s own Dietary Guidelines for Americans (due to be updated next year), might be a good place to start.