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FDA Crack-down on Food Packaging Claims and Logos

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Finally! Is all I can say. This Wall Street Journal article examines the issue that led to a "Smart Choice" labeling on a box of Froot Loops (Thank you folks like Bill Maher for publicly outing this ridiculousness).

My take? I have a long history with food packaging claims -- 12 years ago, I sat in my first packaging development meeting (I worked for an ad agency whose client was a global cereal company). I learned quickly that what appears on the package results from hours of analysis and dollars spent to determine what will best attract the buyer. What I also realized is that many of the 3rd party endorsement logos (even from "non-profits") were "for sale," and further more, that some food companies helped in the development of the criteria for these logos -- not very 3rd party, eh?

As a student of nutrition, I struggled with understanding these same criteria, which often represented one aspect of the nutrition picture. For example, "fat-free" = heart healthiest ? -- but don't we know that certain fats are very heart healthy, and that some "naturally fat-free" (like the statement that appears on Twizzlers) products contain much sugar so that they likely wouldn't be heart healthy for anyone and certainly not overall body healthy.

Years later, after helping countless clients navigate the grocery store aisles and teaching them how to interpret a package (only one part label reading, the other parts were what specific claims did and did not mean), I was further convinced that we needed something to help, truly help, the consumer navigate the world in which thousands of new products enter each year. Because while it may be a bit of naïvete and even as some have said, a touch of laziness, that has us turning to logos and claims to influence our purchase. Isn't it really we just want to look up and be able to trust what we see is truth?

To this end, last year, I launched the AKA Stamp of Approval.
AKA stamp of approval cannot be bought, it's earned This is a critical distinction. AKA rewards companies for transparency of information, for quality ingredients, for clear and truthful marketing messages, and for making the kind of food they would eat themselves and feed to their family. To determine whether a product or company is AKA, I audit the company for information on ingredient sourcing, marketing messages, target audience etc.

It is my hope that AKA can be an example for the FDA and other groups seeking to "help" consumers shop healthier. To borrow from an icon in advertising history: We can come a long way, baby ... Let's demand such change.

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