We’ve been following developments in nutrition rating schemes and front of package labeling for quite some time. Smart Choices is a labeling system that informs consumers which products are a nutritious choice using a green check mark as a quick glance visual cue. The selection criteria is based on nutrients in the foods, and has been defined by the food industry together with nutrition experts. This bias has created an unobjective system, whose purpose is to help sell more products under the guise of nutrition and health.
Here is a perfect example – Smart Choices has recently been spotted in supermarkets across the country on products such as breakfast cereals, including the sugary kid stuff. If we needed any further proof that this benchmark system is NOT IN THE HEALTH INTEREST of consumers, take a look at Froot Loops, which has received the coveted “Smart Choice” checkmark. Froot Loops is manufactured by Kellogg’s, one of the members of Smart Choices.
What you need to know:
Let’s look at the Ingredient List and Nutrition Panel:
Sugar, Corn Flour, Wheat Flour, Whole Oat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (One or More of: Coconut, Cottonseed, and Soybean) (Less than 0.5 g Trans Fat Per Serving), Salt, Sodium Ascorbate and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Reduced Iron, Natural Orange, Lemon, Cherry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Lime, and Other Natural Flavors, Red No. 40, Blue No. 2, Yellow No. 6, Zinc Oxide, Niacinamide, Turmeric Color, Blue No. 1, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Vitamin A Palmitate, Annatto Color, BHT (Preservative), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12.
The first ingredient is sugar! In fact, Froot Loops is 41% sugar by weight. And Whoa(!) partially hydrogenate vegetable oil too. Doesn’t sound like a smart choice to us. A 1 oz serving (which by the way is too small for regular people) contains 12 grams of sugar – that’s 3 teaspoons. 48 of the 110 calories per serving are from sugar.
And check out the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – that’s trans fat folks, even if there is less than half a gram per serving, it adds up to 8 grams in a box. People should not consume ANY trans fat during the day.
Additionally, there is less than 1 oz of fiber per serving, and as you probably know, breakfast cereals are expected to be an important source of fiber.
The rainbow of artificial colors (Red No. 40, Blue No. 2, Yellow No. 6) are of a dubious nature, as some may contribute to hyperactivity in kids. Europe is twisting manufacturers’ arms to get rid of the colors voluntarily.
And another note, on marketing to kids. Froot Loops, like many other kids focused “food”, has a thoroughly entertaining website filled with games and activities, all of which are embedded with froot loops and other branding messages. What a way to burn a brand into our children’s young and impressionable minds. To ease some corporate guilt, or most likely at the advice of their legal team, Kellogg’s has a tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page that we’re sure all kids read before playing:
KIDS: This page may contain a product or promotion advertisement.
Remember, you should get a parent’s permission before you try to buy anything online or give information about yourself.
Please, please food industry executives – stop indoctrinating our children to eat crap. You have kids too!
What to do at the supermarket:
Do not trust health claims or cutesy checkmarks and recommendations on product packages. Look at the ingredient list and the nutrition panel. There should be less than 6 grams of sugar per serving, 3 grams or more of fiber, NO partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and no artificial food colorings.
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