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A blizzard of 'health' labels at the grocery store

July 7, 2009 |  5:48 pm

We recently wrote about new labels you'll be seeing in grocery stores soon that are designed to help consumers make more healthful choices. But how helpful will they be? Consider the fact that Frosted Flakes would qualify for the new industry-designed "Smart Choices" logo.

Check out the Chicago Tribune's story about these new labeling schemes and what various nutrition experts think of them.

The involvement of industry in developing Smart Choices "is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house," comments Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, in the article. Katz helped put together a different system, NuVal, which rates foods on a scale of 1 to 100 based on nutritional content and was developed without industry involvement. (Frosted Flakes scored only 22 on that scale.)

The food industry isn't the only organization to get dinged in the article. As the article makes clear, the American Heart Assn. has long been criticized for its endorsement of products through the heart-check mark program. The association gets paid for those heart-check marks, and not all of the foods that can qualify are ones you'd necessarily consider healthful, even if they are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. One example from the Tribune article is Kellogg's Smart Start Strong Heart Antioxidants cereal, which has the association's heart-check mark but contains 14 grams of sugar per serving.

Read more about the American Heart Assn. heart-check mark controversy in an online exerpt from NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle's 2003 book, "Food Politics."

-- Rosie Mestel