Unilever To Phase Out ‘Smart Choices’ Logo

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. (AP) -- Unilever PLC said late Monday it has decided to phase out use of the Smart Choices logo on its food and beverage products now that the Food and Drug Administration plans to standardize criteria for food nutrition labels.

U.S. manufacturers, including Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Inc. and General Mills Inc., rolled out their so-called Smart Choices program last year, amid growing concern about obesity rates. The green labels appear on the front of foods that meet certain standards for calories per serving and fat content.

But consumer advocates have complained about lax standards for the program, with logos appearing on everything from frozen sweets to sugary cereals. And last week, federal health officials warned food makers that the logos may be misleading consumers about the food's actual health benefits. The agency told manufacturers it will crack down on inaccurate labeling, although it did not cite specific products or give a timeline for enforcement.

The agency is now developing proposed nutritional standards that would have to be met before manufacturers place such claims on their packages. Officials with Smart Choices in Washington, D.C., have said they stand behind its nutritional criteria. However, the group on Friday said it will "postpone" active operations and not encourage wider use of the logo while the FDA investigates labeling issues.

Unilever, which makes Ragu sauce, WishBone salad dressings, Klondike bars, Breyers ice cream and Slim Fast shakes, among other products, said it will await the FDA's direction on future front-of-package nutrition labeling.

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