Take a Stand for Better Food Choices (and you don't even have to get up from your computer)

So you shop at farmer’s markets and your local co-op. You buy local, organic, sustainably grown and harvested food. Your coffee is grown in the shade, your chocolate is fair-trade, and your bread is homemade.  How else can you can declare your support for the cause of "local, sustainable, organic foods and the people who produce them?”

Start by visiting the Food Democracy Now (FDN) web site. FDN is an organization of “farmers, writers, chefs, eaters and policy advocates” who are working at the policy and legislative level to create a “new food system that is capable of meeting the changing needs of American society as it relates to food, health, animal welfare and the environment.”

FDN has been involved with getting the state of Ohio to rescind the regulation prohibiting milk labels from saying “rBGH-free;” petitioning FDA chief Tom Vilsack to choose food safety attorney Bill Marler to lead the FDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service; and helping to get Michael Pollan's Omnivore’s Dilemma reinstated as part of Washington State University’s Common Reading Program.

Right now, FDN is taking on General Mills, ConAgra, Pepsico, Kraft Foods, Unilever, Sun-Maid, Tysons and Kellogg’s over the new Smart Choices labeling program, a deceptive marketing attempt, according to FDN’s website, to “sell a bunch of junk in a pretty package.” Here’s the full text of their action alert that I received this week:

Recently, an alliance of over a dozen giant food conglomerates and some industry “experts” came up with a new nutrition labeling program meant to help consumers make “smarter food and beverage choices." You might be surprised what they define as a “Smart Choice”: products like Froot Loops, Keebler Cookie Crunch and Lucky Charms.

Are they serious? In an age when childhood obesity and type II diabetes has become an epidemic, labeling sugar cereals as smart choices is unacceptable. Please join us in telling the FDA and USDA to investigate the Smart Choices Program and put an end to deceptive labeling.

The new Smart Choices label, a large, bright green checkmark, is starting to appear on packages of processed food across the country thanks to the help of major corporations like ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods and Unilever. For only $100,000, a company can join the Smart Choices program and ‘"recommend" products that contain as much as 44% sugar to your children.

This new label is a sign of everything that is wrong with food industry driven labeling programs.

According to Michael Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the criteria for the new "smarter food" label is so low that: "You could start out with some sawdust, add calcium or Vitamin A and meet the criteria."

Jacobson, who was on the original panel of experts that worked to create the nutritional standards for the Smart Choices program, resigned last September in disgust because the results were so far in favor of the industry.

Thankfully, the FDA and USDA have taken notice. The agencies sent a joint letter saying they would "be concerned if any FOP (front of package) labeling systems... had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods..." The letter is a good start, but the FDA and USDA need to do more. The Smart Choices program will encourage bad food choices if it's allowed to proceed. And the FDA and USDA have the ability to stop it. Please sign this petition now and tell the FDA and the USDA that Froot Loops is NOT a Smart Choice for our children.