Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Eat around the banana... It's just empty vitamins.
September 6, 2009 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Are Froot Loops a Smart Choice? The New York Times questions new food labeling system.

The Smart Choices food labeling program (product database) is a voluntary opt-in nutritional labeling program initiated by the non-profit Keystone Group (as mentioned on this subsite) and administered by the NSF and the American Society for Nutrition.

Proponents argue that a simple green check-mark is a straight forward alternative to what some consider confusing labeling (a sentiment shared by some within the industry as well). In the words of Mark Andon, Ph.D., ConAgra Foods vice president of Nutrition: "But it’s not always easy to identify smarter food and beverage choices. The Smart Choices Program symbol can help; its stringent standards, plus the fact that it eliminates the need for multiple, often confusing symbols across the food industry, are unprecedented.”

However, critics claim it is overly simplistic and question the validity of a criteria which designates Froot Loops - as well as some other questionable products - as smart choices (Froot Loops nutritional information).
posted by sloe (83 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a perfect example of why cynicism is alive and well.
posted by nola at 9:04 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course Froot Loops are a smart choice. They're made with froot. And froot is healthy stuff. Filled with vitayums.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:11 PM on September 6, 2009 [80 favorites]


It's all about calories consumed versus calories burned. If you eat ten bowls of Froot Loops, and burn off 1200 calories, your weight remains constant.

So, w/r/t the Smart Choice thing, who cares?
posted by SansPoint at 9:17 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


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.

Froot Loops are clearly better for you than, say, a box of rusty nails, so why shouldn't they have a green checkmark on them?
posted by TypographicalError at 9:21 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a proponent of cereal that stays crunchy in milk, I would have to say froot loops are a poor choice if you are going to spend more than thirty seconds eating the entire bowl.*

Endorsed by ConAgra? What could go wrong?

* Then again, I eat shredded wheat by putting an individual bite-size biscuit on a spoon and then dunking that in milk, and eating it immediately. You may say there is something wrong with me, but a few of us know the truth: soggy cereal is SICK and WRONG and is a leading indicator of moral turpitude. Or lack of moral turpitude, whichever is worse in your world.
posted by maxwelton at 9:21 PM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Remember the Simpsons episode featuring the prize in a box of Krusty-O's that was a jagged metal Krusty-O? Eating Froot Loops is like eating a whole bowl of sweet, jagged metal Krusty-O's. Which I guess might have been the point of the gag.
posted by Huck500 at 9:22 PM on September 6, 2009


Froot Loops are delicious but not as nutritious as some things that are less delicious but more nutritious. Life is all about balance and compromise, man.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what's weird? Fiber One cereal has high fructose corn syrup. Whereas Fruity Pebbles has none.

Nothing is as it seems, and navigating the minefield of personal nutrition is a fucking nightmare.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


You know you've become an adult when you eat a bowl of froot loops and you thing "fuck, that cut my mouth all to hell". You can never go back after that. Honeycombs, Captain Crunch, Trix, whatever. They'll all taste like eating glass.
posted by boo_radley at 9:34 PM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


This is like those "and knowing is half the battle" bits on the 80's GI Joe cartoons where they'd try to tell you to, I don't know, not smoke crack. Nobody I knew thought that they made the cartoon anything but garbage - we knew it was horseshit slapped in there to satisfy some sort of enforced limit of basic decency. We didn't take it seriously. We didn't think GI Joe was intellectually worthwhile.

Oh, or how on cereal commercials it says, "Part of this nutritious breakfast" and there's a picture of steak and eggs and juice and toast and a salad and a grapefruit and a glass of milk and over in the background there's a bowl with like 6 individual froot loops in it. I mean, I NEVER once saw that and thought, "Fwow! Smurfberry Crunch is good for you!"

Is anybody in America so NON-cynical that a green check mark on a box of EXTREME RAZZLEBERRY FIZZ DOUBLE FROSTED TOASTER TARTS is going to carry any weight whatsoever?
posted by dirtdirt at 9:38 PM on September 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


Nothing is as it seems, and navigating the minefield of personal nutrition is a fucking nightmare.

It's not really that hard. Here's a hint: if you're wondering which instant cereal is "healthy", you have it wrong.
posted by freebird at 9:42 PM on September 6, 2009


This whole program is just obscene. It has the memetic weight of something that's being promoted by the government, when in fact it's being promoted by the very vendors of unhealthy products that are causing so many dietary issues in the first place. In fact, if you read the comments on news sites across the country, people are all saying things like "I can't believe the government is telling me that X is a healthy choice." I saw a news bit tonight where the reporter asked a number of people in the store what they thought the check meant, and all of them thought it was an FDA approval that the product was more healthy than actually healthy products on the same shelf.

Tricky marketing memetics aside: Seriously? Cocoa Puffs and Froot Loops? Fruit Rollups and pastries made with lard? Are you kidding me?

The ingredients from a box of Froot Loops start with sugar as the very first ingredient. Same with cocoa puffs.

This whole "healthy choice" thing is nothing but a clever marketing campaign designed to sell more crap to more people...and the American Society for Nutrition is nothing but a gaggle of whores who hold out their sweaty, greedy little hands for the $100,000 per product to put a white coat of authority on this utter and absolute crap fest.
posted by dejah420 at 9:45 PM on September 6, 2009 [11 favorites]


Of course Froot Loops are a smart choice. They're made with froot. And froot is healthy stuff.

But heaven forfend, you learn that 'Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries' doesn't really contain 'berries' and such are not real fruit. Nonetheless, you file suit and get laughed out of court. Oh, wait ... the law firm representing you also filed a similar lawsuit against Froot Loops, claiming "false advertising.' Guess what? Yep -- the claim was thrown out of court.
posted by ericb at 9:47 PM on September 6, 2009


Once when I was in college, we did a blind taste test of Froot Loops, and we learned that you cannot distinguish differently colored Loops by taste. They're all exactly the same, people!
posted by jonp72 at 9:47 PM on September 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture have also weighed in, sending the program’s managers a letter on Aug. 19 saying they intended to monitor its effect on the food choices of consumers. Read FDA goons and jackbooted Department of Agriculture thugs- this administration is out of control people!
posted by mattoxic at 9:47 PM on September 6, 2009


Nothing is as it seems, and navigating the minefield of personal nutrition is a fucking nightmare.

On pre-packaged, prepared foods, yeah, I'll grant you. Which, at the risk of sounding all Michael Pollan sermony, is why the fuck I do my damnedest to stay the hell away from that stuff as much as I can. It's seriously just less stressful for me to cook than to keep an ever-expanding Excel spreadsheet to keep up. I know what's in the bread I baked last weekend, and it was worth the 30 minutes of actual work it took to be able to say that. At some point, convenience just becomes incredibly goddamned inconvenient.

And, for the record, I say that as a dude who had a Steak 'N' Shake double cheeseburger for lunch yesterday.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's all about calories consumed versus calories burned. If you eat ten bowls of Froot Loops, and burn off 1200 calories, your weight remains constant.

Health isn't just about weight. Who cares if your weight remains constant if you end up diabetic?

There's a reason you shouldn't eat dessert for breafast. It's the same reason you should wait until after work to freebase cocaine. 1200 calories of processed grains packed with sugar will leave you hungry, dissatisfied, and craving more sugar.

Somehow froot loops never cut my mouth. I guess all that Cap'n Crunch training toughened up my mouth. I quit eating Froot Loops years ago when I discovered it was the culprit behind occasional yet highly disconcerting incidences of bright green poo.

But the word "Froot" is a thing of genius.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


SansPoint: It's all about calories consumed versus calories burned. If you eat ten bowls of Froot Loops, and burn off 1200 calories, your weight remains constant.

So, w/r/t the Smart Choice thing, who cares?


Children (and all people, really) need more than gross calories to burn. The fiber that that hypothetical child is missing out on from whole grain bread, the protein and minerals from a poached egg, the vitamins from a piece of fruit, these are much more important, especially to developing minds and bodies, than simply a slightly higher or lower number of k-cals.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:50 PM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


But don't Froot Loops have electrolytes? It's what humans crave!
I would prefer a scheme similar to what I've seen on products in the UK where they have a green to red scale for assorted nutritional items, like sugars, calories, fat, etc that show how bad that particular item is for you. Some of the private label products in Kroger stores have a similar green to red scheme on the label, which I find much more informative for a quick glance yes or no.
posted by msbutah at 9:55 PM on September 6, 2009


Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said the program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards.

She said the program was also influenced by research into consumer behavior. That research showed that, while shoppers wanted more information, they did not want to hear negative messages or feel their choices were being dictated to them.

“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ”


Seriously, folks--if you hadn't seen the article, wouldn't you say that this was from The Onion and not the New York Times?

WTF?
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:03 PM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product."

Yep, great. So they will go right past all the fruit, lacking as it is any sort of green checkmark, and stock up on delicious nutritious Froot Loops. Mission Accomplished.
posted by mek at 10:07 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I work for a very large prepress vendor that specializes in food packaging. One of our largest customers has just started rolling out the Smart Choices icons on their products and what's on the list is unbelievable. Kids' breakfast cereal which is close to 50% sugar by mass gets a Smart Choice icon. But the adult cereal which is targeted at athletes and is a full serving of your recommended whole grains is not a Smart Choice. The list is almost a 50-50 split of "healthy" and "sugary" cereals.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:19 PM on September 6, 2009


I eat all my cereal dry, with a glass of milk. I've only had milk in my bowl three times in my life, twice out of curiosity and once done for me by a 'helpful' host I was staying with. I'm very sorry for the rest of you, who don't know how to eat properly. You'll all die in a fire as a result.

Anyway, any system that lets me call Fudgesicles a "Smart Choice" is Doing it Right in my book. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to stock up on delicious healthy frozen chocolatey goodness.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


CBC's Marketplace recently featured an exposé of Canada's similar Health Check program, sponsored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Sounds reputable, right? Well, it turns out those checkmarks are more or less for sale. (Sorry, if you want to play the video, you need a real plug-in. Our tax dollars at work, I guess.)

This later episode -- no Real needed for embedded video! -- looks at Health Check-approved restaurant meals that are loaded with sodium.
posted by maudlin at 10:31 PM on September 6, 2009


Irwin Mainway is alive and well and friends with Toucan Sam.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:33 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, that's it. I'm frying up a half dozen rashers of bacon and frying French toast in the rendered grease and eating them all drenched in maple syrup.

THEN repeating that in 6 hours for breakfast.

Hmm, I might even have to shave a potato into hashbrown to fry up the remaining grease and soak up the (organic) sugar.

/not kidding

There's a wide line between 'real' food and 'fake' food; and moderation needs to be exercised for both. Is it the (lack) of education or the extracurricular education (advertisments) that has people confused about the nutritional values of food?
posted by porpoise at 10:49 PM on September 6, 2009


Are Froot Loops a Smart Choice?

No.

That should clear things up.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:53 PM on September 6, 2009


Mark Andon, Ph.D., ConAgra Foods vice president of Nutrition

Nice to meet you Dr. Andon, and I'm NAMBLA's vice president of Protecting our Children. I'm sure we have a lot in common.

Uh-huh.
posted by Avelwood at 10:58 PM on September 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


maudlin, These green checks are for sale too. All it takes to label a box that is 45% sugar by volume as "healthy" is to give the "nutritionists" $100,000. That's it. (Tis why I said the NSF and the American Society for Nutrition could be compared to ladies of the night. Albeit, this time, Con Agra gets the happy ending...not the consumer.)
posted by dejah420 at 11:01 PM on September 6, 2009


It's Got Electrolytes!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dr. Kennedy, who is not paid for her work on the program...

This is the only part of the article that doesn't make sense to me. In fact, it makes so little sense that I am choosing to believe it is deception one way or another, and am going to call out the New York Times - RIGHT HERE ON METAFILTER - for forwarding the incredible claim to us with no further explanation or investigation.

In case it wasn't clear, this is not a government program or anything at all other than a group of manufacturers who have decided to get consistent with their marketing. The (part of a) NUTRITIOUS BREAKFAST, Coke is LOW-SODIUM (see label for sugar content), and Top Ramen is LOW-FAT (see label for sodium content) etc. bullshit has been going on forever.
posted by Bokononist at 11:09 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a challenge. Try to figure out what NSF actually stands for. Hint: It's not The National Science Foundation, a government organization dedicated to the advancement of science. I'm sure the similarity in their logos is pure coincidence.

Isn't great that half our country wants to eliminate government standards bodies in favor of groups like NSF International and the American Society for Nutrition? Always listen to your anti-global warming Libertarian friends. Clearly they know what the fuck they're talking about.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:16 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Health isn't just about weight. Who cares if your weight remains constant if you end up diabetic?

I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic.
posted by alligatorman at 11:27 PM on September 6, 2009


I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says, like dumb. I'm smart and I want ... Froot Loops!
posted by stargell at 11:30 PM on September 6, 2009


You know what's weird? Fiber One cereal has high fructose corn syrup. Whereas Fruity Pebbles has none

Yes, because the 11 grams of Sucrose in Fruity Pebbles is so much better then the zero grams of HCFS in Fiber One. Sugar is bad for you, but More sucrose is worse then less HCFS. But in this case, you're actually wrong about Fiber One. When I went to look up the amount of HCFS in Fiber one it turned out there was none at all.

Nothing is as it seems, and navigating the minefield of personal nutrition is a fucking nightmare.

Yes, if you're afraid of the wrong things, like being afraid of HCFS rather then the total amount of sugar. Also Fiber One contains no HCFS, no Fructose, no Sucrose, no Lactose or any other type of Sugar. It only has Aspartimne, the same artificial sweetener in diet pop
posted by delmoi at 11:41 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mark Andon, Ph.D., ConAgra Foods vice president of Nutrition

Boy, I'm sure glad that Ph.D.s have clawback provisions just like Banker bonuses.
posted by fatllama at 11:46 PM on September 6, 2009


It doesn't say what his Ph.D is in.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, the box of Fiber One I didn't buy yesterday must have had a misprint.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:53 PM on September 6, 2009


It doesn't say what his Ph.D is in.

Frootology
posted by dirigibleman at 12:03 AM on September 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


I credit Mark Bittman to articulating the fact that programs like these are simply ruses, designed to teach ordinarily people one lie: Healthy food is complicated.

We ask a question like, do added nutrients to froot loops make it healthier, and does that outweigh the sugar content? or ... Is HFCS worse for you than sugar? What about "good" and "bad" cholesterol? High in fiber? A good source of omega-X fatty acids?

No one would ever even ask these questions about a tomato. Fruits and vegetables will never receive a "Smart Choices" checkmark, and that's the essential failure of all such programs. A food industry program rating food as healthy or not only rates processed food. It's not that vegetables are unhealthy, it's that they aren't even considered. The reason "Smart Choices" is junk isn't Froot Loops.
posted by cotterpin at 12:45 AM on September 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


Just as obesity has become something of an epidemic, depression is running rampant through our society, resulting in billions of dollars spent on pharmaceuticals and medical care. Needless to say, this has burdened our already fragile health-care infrastructure.

And that is why the pint of Ben & Jerry's in my freezer is a Smart Choice. Because it makes me happy in a way that Eli Lilly never will (until they figure out how to get fudge, cookies, and dinosaur-shaped chocolate chunks into my pills).
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:04 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, the box of Fiber One I didn't buy yesterday must have had a misprint.

Ah, it turns out there are different types of fiber one cereal. The "Origional" fiber one contains no sugar, but there are also Fiber One "Honey Clusters", "Raisin Bran Clusters", "Carmel Delight" and "Shredded Wheat". The Honey clusters and Raisin Bran Clusters contain HCFS (along with sugar and honey), whereas the Caramel Delight contains "Fructose" (doesn't say what kind) and the Shredded Wheat only contains Sucrose (normal sugar).

Still, it doesn't really make much sense to say that the mix of HCFS, Sugar, and Honey in which adds up to 6 grams of sugar in, say, the Honey Clusters is somehow worse for you then the 11 grams of sugar Fruity Pebbles. (The raisin bran contains 13g of sugar, so slightly more then fruity pebbles, though)

The paranoia about this chemical is just mind blowing.
posted by delmoi at 1:08 AM on September 7, 2009


Although I agree that people shouldn't be allowed to put these checkmarks on their boxes, unless it was totally clear that they're not government approved and exactly who is responsible (and their sponsors)
posted by delmoi at 1:12 AM on September 7, 2009


There's a reason you shouldn't eat dessert for breafast. It's the same reason you should wait until after work to freebase cocaine.

But there was a green check on the vial!
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:20 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I never said one gram of HFCS was worse than ten grams of sugar, or whatever. On balance, Fruity Pebbles are clearly worse for you than Fiber One, since it's a pile of sugar vs. a huge amount of fiber and vitamins plus some unfortunate HFCS. I was making a comment about the fact that HFCS shows up in some pretty weird places, and that things that are marketed to us as healthy often seem to have unseen drawbacks.

Given the choice, and all other things being equal, I'd take white sugar over HFCS, but frankly, you could probably do a quick Google search and find ten articles that claim sugar is worse for you.

Making it worse is the fact that making almost any claim about nutrition rewards you with a bunch of people telling you how wrong you are.*

It's why I've been tending toward just eating lots of vegetables and beans and lean meats lately and trying to avoid getting into conversations about nutrition. Because no matter what your diet, there's someone out there who's ready to eagerly inform you that you're doing it wrong.

*not referring to you here delmoi, just my general experience.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:22 AM on September 7, 2009


When my children were still in diapers, I remembered enjoying Froot Loops as a kid and got them some for their breakfast. After the first couple of diaper changes, I quickly understood my mistake.

When I was a kid, the cereal only came in shades of pink, orange, and yellow, and I swear you could still taste the differences between the colors. The additions of green and blue, if I'm recalling events correctly, apparently made a load of difference in the "end result" in the diapers I was having to change. I swear, it was like the time they decided to eat some crayons. Shocking. I decided that all that dye could not be a good thing, and we haven't had that cereal in the house since then.

I don't care what kind of green checkmark is on a product, I'm going to check the ingredients listed and continue to make most of our meals from scratch.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:43 AM on September 7, 2009


Making it worse is the fact that making almost any claim about nutrition rewards you with a bunch of people telling you how wrong you are.*

There are a lot of people who will criticize you no matter what, but there are also a lot of people who have pretty crazy beliefs. Such as the whole Eat right 4 your type thing where people claim what you should eat is determined by your blood type, all kinds of nonsense.
posted by delmoi at 4:02 AM on September 7, 2009


This is why you should build a diet based on shopping the "outer ring" of the store, and never venturing down the aisles. Stick to the perimeter and you have all of life's healthy essentials: vegetables, fresh fruit, meat, cheese and beer.
posted by jbickers at 4:36 AM on September 7, 2009 [8 favorites]


“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’ ” Dr. Kennedy said. “Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product. They want to have a choice. They don’t want to be told ‘You must do this.’ ”

That is one mind-bending paragraph. I'm trying to get past the first sentence, so the logic here is that a green check and a red x are interchangeable? Um . . .they're opposites.

I need to stop parsing this sentence though, as the intent is clearly to confuse. It's pretty clear that Doctor Kennedy has a phd in double-speak.
posted by jeremias at 5:27 AM on September 7, 2009


You know, there is no doubt in my mind that you could create a perfectly healthy diet where the vast majority of your calories came from high fructose corn syrup and your dietary fiber was shredded plastic. Good luck with the marketing program for that.

Still, is a bowl of oatmeal with a half ton of brown sugar, a chunk of butter and some milk on it really more healthy that Froot Loops?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:31 AM on September 7, 2009


It doesn't say what his Ph.D is in.

It's clearly in Nootrition.
posted by davemee at 6:07 AM on September 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


There's a reason you shouldn't eat dessert for breafast. It's the same reason you should wait until after work to freebase cocaine.

Note to self ...
posted by krinklyfig at 6:29 AM on September 7, 2009


“You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.”

I believe that was the Borgia family motto, wasn't it?
posted by Phanx at 6:31 AM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


“The checkmark means the food item is a ‘better for you’ product, as opposed to having an x on it saying ‘Don’t eat this,’

This made me laugh. Hard,

You know what would be better than an X? A microchip with a warning message. As soon as the box was picked up it would start playing
Do not pick up this box of food, it is NOT a healthy choice. I repeat. Do NOT pick up this box. Stop. Don't put it in your shopping cart, the contents could harm you. You must stop NOW. You will regret this. Stop. Stop. STOP. Do NOT walk out of the store with this item. It is bad for you. Your body will be harmed. No. No. NOOoooOOOoooOOOooooo
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:35 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is why you should build a diet based on shopping the "outer ring" of the store.

Amen to this. I always shop the outer ring of the store I patronize. That way I stay away from the expensive things in the center and only get the essentials like 40 oz Colt 45, Thunderbird and Mogen David 20/20. And to be sure that I have a well rounded diet, I get my minimum daily requirement of protein with a half a dozen Slim Jims at the checkout.
posted by digsrus at 6:41 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


They put warnings on cigarette packs for all the good it did. Maybe a red 'X' would have been better.
posted by wobh at 6:55 AM on September 7, 2009


Soylent Green is People, but Soylent Green with a check mark is better people.
posted by Gungho at 7:23 AM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is why you should build a diet based on shopping the "outer ring" of the store.

Sometimes the water from the hose is a little warm, but the bagels are still pretty fresh.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:37 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Tthere's someone out there who's ready to eagerly inform you that you're doing it wrong.
posted by stevil at 8:14 AM on September 7, 2009


In grade 8 or thereabouts we did a Science Fair experiment with Smarties (the candy-coated chocolate, for Americans) to see if people could tell apart the different colors. Young children could, with stunning ease. After a certain age (our data collection with not rigorous, I'm afraid although I have published my data on the Internet!!!), they had little clue, especially boys. So rather than suggesting that Froot Loops has changed its product since we were kids, perhaps it is we who have changed.
posted by stevil at 8:21 AM on September 7, 2009


Here's a challenge. Try to figure out what NSF actually stands for.

National Sanitation Foundation.

Not even kidding.
posted by tomierna at 8:26 AM on September 7, 2009


Amen to this. I always shop the outer ring of the store I patronize. That way I stay away from the expensive things in the center and only get the essentials like 40 oz Colt 45, Thunderbird and Mogen David 20/20. And to be sure that I have a well rounded diet, I get my minimum daily requirement of protein with a half a dozen Slim Jims at the checkout.


Do you possess a set of nunchucks by any chance, "Doug"?*
posted by porn in the woods at 8:29 AM on September 7, 2009


I've just switched to eating healthy people.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:30 AM on September 7, 2009


NSF = Not Safe Food-advisors.

The sad thing is that there's a reason it's worth $100k per product for these companies to get the checkmark. Some shoppers will be fooled, and will think "These Froot Loops are better for my kids than the store brand Oat-Os." Granted, instant cereals are not the most nutritious way to start the day, but they do generally beat freebased cocaine in helping your child sit still through math class.
posted by notashroom at 8:41 AM on September 7, 2009


Am I the only person who does not think the existing labels are that confusing? Ingredients listed, in order of amount. Fat grams, fiber grams, sodium. Multiply by the number of servings you're actually going to eat. (Has any rational human ever eaten one-third of a muffin?)

Just give me the data, minus the marketing plz.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:49 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]



So rather than suggesting that Fruit Loops has changed its product since we were kids, perhaps it is we who have changed.

That's only because you can't compare Fruit Loops, or Ring Dings or a Milano cookie today to the way they were made back then.

"Corporate food" was much more wholesome back then because there was less technology or knowhow to process food. And there was more regulation back then.

35+ year-old Americans who have been to to Italy can vouche for this. Eating their "corporate food" (the breakfast cereals, "American-style" cookies, the "Good Humor" type ice cream like Algida) is like going back in time- since they have tighter restrictions on what they can do to their food.
posted by Zambrano at 9:11 AM on September 7, 2009


If the label on the bnet link is accurate, I will give them credit for one thing -- and this one thing only -- in designing that label. Clearly, in large enough print to read, on the front of the box, calling out how many servings exist in the package, is incredibly useful information that's sadly, sadly lacking on most current products. Even if you know in your heart of hearts you're going to eat the whole box, it makes the mental math a lot easier.

I often eat a can of beans along with something else as a meal. The nutritional information is based on 1/2 cup / 125ml of beans. But the can contains 398ml. 125 doesn't even divide into 398 evenly. There ends up being, like, 3.14159265 servings in a can or some such stupidity. That, frankly, is way more long division than I care to do in a supermarket aisle, ya know?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:28 AM on September 7, 2009


Still, is a bowl of oatmeal with a half ton of brown sugar, a chunk of butter and some milk on it really more healthy that Froot Loops?

A bowl of oatmeal would be truly disgusting to just about anyone if you added 50% sugar by dry mass to it, and hell the same goes for Froot Loops. That is if you take the time to chew trough the cardboard like this guy. Froot Loops cereal is specifically designed, if only by natural selection, to hide how really fucking disgustingly sweet it is.

I am happiest when I eat a bowl of unsweetened steel cut oatmeal with raisins but whenever I eat sugary cereals for any period of time my beloved oats don't lose their natural sweetness, aroma or subtlety but for months I can taste is the lack of a spike in my blood sugar.

I suspect that the biggest reason these cereals sell so well is the hell that kind of withdrawal from half oatmeal/half sugar bowls would be on a child, much less their parents.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:49 AM on September 7, 2009


"Consumers are smart enough to deduce that if it doesn’t have the checkmark, by implication it’s not a ‘better for you’ product."

Yep, great. So they will go right past all the fruit, lacking as it is any sort of green checkmark, and stock up on delicious nutritious Froot Loops. Mission Accomplished.

I knew Darwin was on to something.
posted by notreally at 9:54 AM on September 7, 2009


As an avid eater of cereal, in all of it's glorious forms, I must say:

"Healthy Check-Mark, I salute you!"
posted by elder18 at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2009


Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks, then just Smacks, now is Honey Smacks again. It is 55% sugar. I've never had any.
posted by neuron at 10:41 AM on September 7, 2009


JoanArkham: Am I the only person who does not think the existing labels are that confusing? Ingredients listed, in order of amount. Fat grams, fiber grams, sodium. Multiply by the number of servings you're actually going to eat. (Has any rational human ever eaten one-third of a muffin?)

One specific thing I really liked about the food labeling in India was that *every* edible product had nutritional information, not per serving size, but per 100g of product. Many *also* had a per-serving-size label, but everything had a per 100g. It was a fanatic way to compare apples to apples.

They also had a green dot on anything that didn't have meat in it and a red dot on anything that did (even if meat was mentioned in the name on the box, in 4 languages, there was still a red dot) which I thought was great.

But even better was the database of officially approved chemical flavors, preservatives, and colors. So, instead of a long list of chemical names at the end of the label there were a few numbers. I wasn't there for long enough to learn the numbers, but I remember wishing we had that in the US. It would be so much easier to remember "oh I think coloring 37 is disgusting and shouldn't be on the market" than a 7 syllable chemical name.

I really wish we had the first one in the States, and the second and third would be great, too.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:59 AM on September 7, 2009


I think the money quote from Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, is:

“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.”

Is that really an accurate assessment of the nutrition awareness of a relatively average shopper in today's busy, busy world? Standing frustrated in the aisle - the pressing need to feed your children weighing heavily on your shoulders - questioning "Doughnut or Cereal...". And if that woefully ignorant consumer is who you are trying to save, is putting a box of Froot Loops in their hands really the best solution - if any solution at all?

I agree with JoanArkham - food labels aren't that difficult to understand - and even a cursory glance at one will indicate to any moderately informed consumer that while Froot Loops is mildly more substantive than a doughnut, on the scale of actual nourishment offered by products within a typical grocery store, they are pretty much equivalent and in the same category - with neither being a "Smart Choice".

And while I also agree the check-mark will not fool alot of people (eg, most people are pretty callous to the shameless co-opting of public advocacy by corporations establishing stealth non-profit groups), I'm afraid it will assuage the conscience of borderline consumers - skipping the truth in the detailed labeling and relying on the green check-mark as a thumbs up from the nutritional powers that be.

It's like while confronting my diet coke problem, reading on the package: ”It’s true. Research shows that all beverages contribute to proper hydration. That means whether it’s your first can of the day or your afternoon pick-me-up, Diet Coke helps you stay hydrated all day long. So stick with the Diet Coke taste you love. Your body will thank you for it.”.

What an easy way to get my 8 glasses of water a day! And my body will thank me for it!

At least I know coke is outright lying - the apparent authority behind the "Smart Choices" program is much more intimidating. And for that, the academics and nutritionist associated with this project should be ashamed - if not formally sanctioned.
posted by sloe at 11:13 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Multiply by the number of servings you're actually going to eat. (Has any rational human ever eaten one-third of a muffin?)

Last month, I drank my first Snapple in about ten years, and was pleased to note that the nutritional information was listed in two columns -- one for the serving size, one for the entire bottle. It was nice to see that someone was thinking of how these things actually work in the real world, as opposed to the weird world that only exists in the intersection between marketing and government regulation.

Sadly, Snapple is still pretty gross.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:15 PM on September 7, 2009


Still, is a bowl of oatmeal with a half ton of brown sugar, a chunk of butter and some milk on it really more healthy that Froot Loops?

If you are comparing roughly equivalent caloric intake, then yes.

That should clear things up.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:19 PM on September 7, 2009


Thank god consumer behavior is only ever based on the rational behavior of individual purchasers.; otherwise a campaign like this might be critiqued for being unethical. As long as consumers are able to exercise their freedom of choice within the marketplace - a freedom clearly infringed upon when gov't socialists force citizens to eat what they consider healthy via their own nutritional campaigns - we can be sure that the American Dream has been preserved.

And - for your information - the conclusion that Froot Loops was healthier than many things a parent could feed their children for breakfast was arrived at after lengthy investigations that showed parents could be providing anthrax, asbestos, and swift-kicks-to-the-groin to their children with which to start their day.
posted by pantsonsteven at 1:35 PM on September 7, 2009


There's a similar program here in Canada. "Healthy" foods get a whitye checkmark on a red seal; next to the checkmark is an asterisk. Printed in the opposite corner of the label, next to another asterisk, in tiny 4pt type, are words to the effect of, "Not an endorsement - Logo indicates Smart Choice (or whatever the fuck it's called) is supported by manufacturer's donation," or put more simply, "This 'program' is bullshit."
posted by Sys Rq at 2:54 PM on September 7, 2009


This was reported in The Onion back in 2002.
posted by SampleSize at 6:19 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somewhere along the way, they changed the recipe for Honeycombs. I never ate Saturday-morning-cartoons-in-my-pajamas cereals again.

End of an era, man.
posted by tzikeh at 7:42 PM on September 7, 2009


NURTITION IS SO COMPLICATED sighs average American.

But's it's not. Here's a hint: Could you make this in your kitchen? No? Does it have more than 15 ingredients? Yes?

It's probably not a healthy choice. Buy things that look like food. Better yet, buy real food. Is that tricky? When did it get tricky?
posted by GilloD at 11:23 PM on September 7, 2009


I want to print up a whole sheet of these Smart Choice checkbox stickers, and place them on fruits and vegetables in the produce isle. I'll do it pro-bono.

Or, more cynically, I'm tempted to print up a sheet of those stickers and place them bottles of Dran-o, and Colt 45.
posted by baxter_ilion at 11:57 AM on September 8, 2009


In grade 8 or thereabouts we did a Science Fair experiment with Smarties (the candy-coated chocolate, for Americans) to see if people could tell apart the different colors.

I wanted to impress my nephew with my superior abilities in identifying not just one, but any two, Starburst flavors, at the same time in a blind tasting. He tricked and tripped me up me though, by slipping me two of the same flavor. Smartass.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:31 PM on September 8, 2009


Or, more cynically, ... Colt 45.

If it's good enough for Billy Dee, it's good enough for me. You keep your mitts off.
posted by cloax at 8:54 PM on September 8, 2009


« Older As a boy he grew plants up his bedroom wall. Patr...  |   ...the lyrics to that last s... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments