Unlike other schemes, it uses a simple large green check mark to indicate that the food has met “strict science-based nutrition criteria” based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, rather than detailing what those criteria are on-pack. It has been developed by a coalition of scientists, nutritionists, consumer organizations and food industry leaders.
Eileen Kennedy Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University said: “The coalition worked very hard to develop nutrition criteria that met the highest of standards and a symbol consumers would appreciate and recognize when making choices at the point of purchase.”
There are about 500 products which have already qualified to display the Smart Choices logo, including foods and beverages made by ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Sun-Maid, Tyson and Unilever. Qualification is based on three categories: Nutrients to limit, such as fat, sugar and sodium; nutrients to encourage, including many vitamins and minerals; and food groups to encourage, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
Kennedy said: “By providing a single, simple communication on the front of the package, the Smart Choices Program can help alleviate confusion in the supermarket and help today’s busy shoppers make smarter choices for their families in store and at home.”
The qualification criteria for the scheme are flexible, designed to keep up with scientific knowledge about nutrients and ingredients. The official Dietary Guidelines for Americans are revised every five years, and they are due for revision next year. If there are alterations, the Smart Choices program will also be subject to revision. All of the program’s nutritional criteria are openly accessible to the public.
The scheme was initially coordinated by non-profit public health organization The Keystone Center, but it is now jointly coordinated by the American Society for Nutrition and NSF International, a non-profit public health organization that certifies products and sets standards for food, water and consumer goods.