Lawyer: I have surfaced from an intense week of law school and have finally found a few minutes to look at the news. Man, this stuff raises my blood pressure. Much more than these crazy-heavy casebooks.
The New York Times is running an article about the new “Smart Choices” labeling on packaged foods. Basically, it’s a group of industry folks agreeing on standards for putting this checkmark on food packages. Controversy is arising from the fact that Froot Loops, among other classics of the junk food genre, are getting the check-mark.
It includes the following quote:
“Dr. Kennedy, who is not paid for her work on the program, defended the products endorsed by the program, including sweet cereals. She said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children.
“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”
Now, I know I’m currently studying for a profession that places a premium on logic. Yeah. I get that. But don’t tell me that med school completely discounts it. If they’re really using this standard, then they might want to make the label say something like “All but the very stupidest choices.” I mean, okay. Let’s see. Cigarettes are smarter than heroin. Green checkmark! A Ford Expedition is smarter than a Ford Excursion. Checkmark!
This campaign is misleading and seems like an attempt by food manufacturers to get themselves off Michael Pollan’s shit list when they don’t deserve to be.
Can they do that? Well, yeah, for now, they can. The FDA says they’ll monitor it — and maybe, if it seems to be influencing people’s food choices in a negative way, they’ll think about it more. Can they do more than that now? Should they? It gets more complicated when you look at the fine print — companies are paying to participate in this program. So Kellog’s pays to have that label on its boxes (though it can only put the label on products meeting certain criteria.)
A much better solution: The FDA (whether in its current form, or split into an FA and a DA, as we’ve discussed before) would provide its own labeling system, with more sound criteria, that would uniformly apply to all food products, not just those who had the money wanted to pay to sound healthier than they are.