“Smart Choices” food label is marketing fraud; Tufts University involvement questioned (opinion)
(NaturalNews) The big food companies have dreamed up yet another clever con to sell processed junk foods to parents and children: A “Smart Choices” label that implies the food product is a smart choice for health and nutrition. The problem is that the standards for qualifying for this designation were set by the food companies themselves, and processed junk foods like Froot Loops (a sugary breakfast cereal) qualify.
Froot Loops is 41 percent processed white sugar. It also contains processed flour and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil. But that’s not all you’ll find in the box: Froot Loops is also made with synthetic coloring chemicals, including Red #40, Blue #2, Yellow #6 and Blue #1. The No. 1 ingredient of Froot Loops is sugar, and each serving contains 12 grams of sugar.
So how, exactly, did Froot Loops qualify for the “Smart Choices” label?
I’ll tell you how: Because the Smart Choices label is a marketing fraud. It’s a manipulative, dishonest food package labeling system that is intentionally designed by the processed food companies to mislead and misinform consumers into buying processed food products, in my view.
You’d have to be deeply misinformed about nutritional basics to think that a processed breakfast cereal made of 41% sugar, partially-hydrogenated oils and artificial coloring chemicals is a “smart choice” for any child. A more appropriate label might be “Diabetes Choices” or “Obesity Choices”, but certainly not “Smart Choices.”
In my opinion, this marketing fraud is little more than a marketing gimmick. It makes you wonder who, exactly, came up with it.
Did Tufts University sell out to the food giants?
The president of the Smart Choices board is Eileen T. Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. (http://nutrition.tufts.edu/1174562918741/Nutrition-Page-nl2w_1177941613339.html)
Eileen Kennedy and other Tufts University faculty members have established ties with the Kellogg’s company, having participated in a “Children’s Health” forum that was co-sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
That event, held in June of this year, was entitled: ‘Children’s Health: The Future of Food & Nutrition Policy’. It claimed to offer in-depth discussions on topics like “childhood obesity, nutrition standards, global child nutrition and school food.” (http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS211273+27-May-2009+PRN20090527)
(Did their discussions ever mention that perhaps children shouldn’t eat breakfast cereals made with 41% processed sugar?)
In promoting the event, Eileen Kennedy was quoted in a joint press release, admitting how closely her university works with food companies:
“Working with our colleagues across academia, the food and nutrition industry, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, we will influence and change the nutritional landscape for our children.”‘
She certainly accomplished that. Now, products made with 41% refined white sugar are fraudulently marketed as “Smart Choices.”
Guess who else was invited to speak at the event? Dr. Cathy Woteki from Mars, Inc., makers of candy bars and other sugarprocessed foods that are aggressively marketed to children.
Tufts University: Sugar for kids?
It all makes you wonder: With all these corporate junk food giants being so heavily involved in this event presented by Tufts University, what exactly does this university really stand for in regards to healthy food for children? Does Tufts University itself stand behind the promotion of sugary junk foods for children? Does it endorse products like Froot Loops being labeled as “Smart Choices” for kids?
Here are the ingredients of Froot Loops:
SUGAR; WHOLE GRAIN CORN FLOUR; WHEAT FLOUR; WHOLE GRAIN OAT FLOUR; OAT FIBER; SOLUBLE CORN FIBER; PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (ONE OR MORE OF: COCONUT, SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OILS)†; SALT; SODIUM ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C); NIACINAMIDE; REDUCED IRON; NATURAL ORANGE, LEMON, CHERRY, RASPBERRY, BLUEBERRY, LIME AND OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS; RED #40; BLUE #2; TURMERIC COLOR; YELLOW #6; ZINC OXIDE; ANNATTO COLOR; BLUE #1; PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6); RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2); THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1); VITAMIN A PALMITATE; BHT (PRESERVATIVE); FOLIC ACID; VITAMIN D; VITAMIN B12.
Is Eileen T. Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, really going to tell us — with a straight face — that this cereal is good for kids?
She might answer, of course, that “it meets U.S. government nutritional guidelines.” Those are the same guidelines that have already made the United States of America a nation grappling with a pandemic of obese children and adults.
Clearly, U.S. government nutritional guidelines are a public health disaster. If we hope to improve the health of our children, it only stands to reason that we must improve the nutritional guidelines being followed to feed our kids. And you can’t improve nutritional guidelines if you’re in bed with the very same corporate food giants who are making and peddling their sugary, chemically-enriched breakfast cereals that promote diabetes and obesity in the first place.
You also can’t improve kids’ health if you’re nutritionally ill-informed and yet you’ve somehow found your way into a position of influence over nutritional policy… as seems to be the case with Dr. Eileen Kennedy. Here’s her gosh-darned explanation of why Froot Loops deserves the “Smart Choices” label, in her own words: “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. So Froot Loops is a better choice.”
Better than a donut?
Huh? Is she serious? Froot Loops gets a Smart Choices label because it’s better than a donut? Is this the limit of the nutritional awareness of the dean of a nationally-recognized school that’s part of the Tufts University system?
This all really reminds me of the movie Idiocracy, where the whole nation is run by complete idiots and water fountains have been replaced with sugary sports drinks because everybody knows that “water is only for toilets.”
In terms of really idiotic thinking, check out this quote published in the New York Times: “Dr. Clark, who is a member of the Smart Choices board, said that the program’s standard for sugar in cereals was consistent with federal dietary guidelines that say that ‘small amounts of sugar’ added to nutrient-dense foods like breakfast cereals can make them taste better. That, in theory, will encourage people to eat more of them, which would increase the nutrients in their diet.”
Are they serious? Break down this logic for a moment: Sugar is GOOD because it encourages children to eat MORE processed breakfast cereals!
How on earth could this be a legitimate answer in a nation where kids are eating too much sugar and too much processed food in the first place?
The utter abandonment of basic common sense by the people in this program is truly awe-inspiring. It really makes me wonder how we can ever turn around the health problems of this nation when we have such nutritionally illiterate people being quoted in the New York Times as nutritional experts. (Or perhaps the NY Times was just trying to point out how nutritionally ignorant these people are, and on that point it succeeded wildly…)
Someone please educate Dr. Kennedy about nutrition.
Tufts University is an outstanding academic institution. It’s done a lot of good work and produced many important studies on nutrition and health. But this pro-sugary-cereals stance by its nutrition school dean is, well, just flat out embarrassing. It makes Tufts University look like the best little corporate nutrition whorehouse in Boston. They might as well just remove the word “science” from the name of the school: Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
That name should probably be replaced with this one, which is more accurate: Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Corporate Ass Kissers. I’m pretty sure the Friedmans wouldn’t appreciate that name, but neither would they likely appreciate a deeply misinformed dean potentially compromising the reputation of their school by seemingly selling out to the very companies whose products undeniably contribute to our kids becoming obese and diabetic in the first place.
Don’t let ’em get away with this sell out. Contact the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and tell ’em what you think about their dean endorsing Froot Loops for children (among other processed junk foods) under the “Smart Choices” label. This is inexcusable! Their contact page is right here: http://nutrition.tufts.edu/1174562918741/Nutrition-Page-nl2w_1177953853481.html
Not all top university nutritionists are hopelessly ignorant when it comes to nutrition, by the way. The chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett, told the New York Times that many products carrying the “Smart Choices” label “are horrible choices.” In fact, quite a number of influential nutrition leaders have spoken out publicly against Dr. Kennedy.
Smart Choices companies aren’t so smart choices
In case you’re curious, here’s the list of the companies participating in this “Smart Choices” label program:
… it reads like a who’s who of processed food and junk food giants. In terms of making truly smart choices at the grocery store, by the way, the smartest choice would be to avoid any product made by any of these companies, in my view.
What integrity really means
Michael Jacobson, the public health watchdog from CSPI, participated as a panel member in the early days of the Smart Choices program, but he soon quit, explaining “It was paid for by industry and when industry put down its foot and said this is what we’re doing, that was it, end of story.” In other words, Jacobson rightly refused to sell out his conscience to a group of corporate junk food promoters. That’s a rare display of genuine integrity in our world.
I applaud Jacobson for quitting the Smart Choices program, which is obviously just a fraudulent marketing gimmick devised by these companies to intentionally mislead consumers. It’s too bad the dean of Tufts University’s nutrition school couldn’t find the backbone to adhere to similar principles. In a nation suffering from runaway health care costs, widespread nutritional deficiencies and an epidemic of childhood obesity, it’s truly disheartening to see an influential nutrition leader from one of the nation’s top universities blatantly promoting processed junk foods for children.
I’m appalled, saddened and somewhat surprised to see this in 2009. While the nutritional advice of Eileen T. Kennedy might have passed muster in the 1970’s era of bleached white Wonder Bread and chemically-enhanced TV dinners, today we know a lot more about the links between the dietary intake of sugars and childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease and behavioral disorders. We know that feeding a nation of children sugared-up breakfast cereals and soft drinks is a sure recipe for raising a generation of obese, diabetic children and teens.
As the dean of the school of nutrition at Tufts University, how is it possible that Mrs. Kennedy could have missed this? Has she been in an aspartame-induced coma since 1975? … and now she suddenly awakens from her decades-long slumber to slap on a pair of polyester pants and champion Froot Loops for children as a prominent dean at Tufts University?
Is this some bizarre rejected screenplay from a “B” movie script? Will her head now spin around as she spouts devilish verse from a demonic spirit that has occupied her body and filled her head with thoughts of sugary cereals?
The whole thing just defies reason. It’s difficult to believe this is happening today, in America, in a top-rated university. So read the sources below. Check it out for yourself as you confirm the truth of what I’m reporting here through articles in the NY Times, CBS News and Reuters. See for yourself just how corrupt and / or ignorant the top nutrition leaders in our nation’s universities can be on this crucial issue of the diet of children. And when you see this clearly, you’ll finally understand why America has more fat, diabetic children than any other nation in the world.
Our adults have sold out our children. It’s that simple. In my opinion, corporate money has bought off key influencers who set public nutrition policy, and they have conspired to feed our kids more sugar, more processed foods, more junk and more lies about nutrition even while their selfish actions may very well bankrupt our entire nation through runaway health care costs.
One final truth comes out in all this: The USA’s national nutrition policies precisely mirror its national food supply — they’re both processed, bleached, adulterated and wholly devoid of any useful substance.
Sources for this story include:
The New York Times
Froot Loops ingredients:
Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy:
By Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor