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Parents asked the new ‘choice’ food labeling system

3 October 2009 1,518 views No Comment

DENVER — Some Colorado shoppers are raising questions about a new food labeling system which is showing up at local supermarkets.

It’s called the “Smart Choices” program which is spearheaded by a Colorado based non-profit, The Keystone Center.

Michael Hughes, the Center’s vice president of science and public policy told 7NEWS that the new food labeling system is designed not only to help people plan their diets, but to help companies reformulate products.

But several parents shopping at the King Soopers on South Broadway in Littleton said the new “Smart Choices” checkmark means little to them, especially since it’s found on several pre-sweetened cereals like Kellogg’s Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes.

“I look at a cereal like Froot Loops and think it probably has a lot of sugar,” said Billy Waters. “We typically shy away from cereals that have a lot of sugar.”

When asked if he thought the new labels had more to do with marketing that with nutrition, Waters responded, “I don’t know.”

But Teresa Salins says she believes it does.

“That label means that the manufacturer thinks it’s a smart choice for me to buy it,” Salins said.

Salins, who suffers from several food allergies and gluten intolerance, said she pays attention to labels.

“They’ve (Kellogg’s) lowered sugar in a lot of their products, so I would trust that label because of the smart choice,” Salins added.

But when asked if the Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes are a good breakfast, Salins said, “No, not unless you have eggs or some kind of protein with it, which is whole milk.”

Cyndy Pennington took a look at the “Smart Choices” checkmark on the Froot Loops and shook her head. She then turned the box and looked at the ingredients and said, “High fructose corn syrup is a big no no.”

But Hughes told 7NEWS that the cereal actually has less sugar than before. He said the standard for the “Smart Choices” label is 12 grams or less per serving.

“It’s been reformulated. It’s not the same Froot Loops that would have been on the shelves before the program started,” Hughes said.

Hughes added that it took stakeholders 2 ½ years to reach agreement on the program.

He said those stakeholders included food companies, nutritionists, academics and government agencies.

“The standards are based on U.S. dietary guidelines,” Hughes said. “This is about taking federal standards and federal nutrition science and applying it to individual foods and hopefully across a whole diet.”

Qualifying criteria have been developed for 19 different product categories ranging from beverages and cereals to meats and snacks.

Those criteria include nutrients to limit, like fats and added sugar, and nutrients to encourage, like calcium and potassium.

The Keystone Center said products that qualify for the “Smart Choices” program will also display calorie, fat, sodium, sugar, fiber and vitamin information on the front of the package.

Hughes said that companies who participate in the program have to pay a fee.

He said the money is used by the non profit center to make sure that products qualify for the new label.

A spokesperson for Kellogg said the company supports food labeling systems that help consumers make informed choices based on sound science and fully transparent information.

When asked if the company has reformulated cereals to lower sugar content and raise fiber amounts, Kris Charles said, “We are always looking for ways to improve our products’ nutrition profiles while still maintaining great taste.

Charles said, “In the past two years, we have also reduced the sugar in pre-sweetened cereals by one to three grams. Also by the end of 2010, the majority of our ready-to-eat cereals will be at least a good source of fiber.

 

Copyright 2009 by TheDenverChannel.com.

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