By 2009 FOP systems and symbols were abundant, and concerns increased about consumers being confused or even misled. After much attention was given to a Smart Choices symbol appearing on a popular, sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal, in August 2009 FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service sent a joint letter to Sarah Krol,4 general manager of the Smart Choices program. The letter stated that the agencies “would be concerned if FOP labeling systems used criteria that were not stringent enough to protect consumers against misleading claims; were inconsistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; or had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” With increasing criticisms and concerns about consumer confusion, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and the FDA Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements followed up with open letters to industry announcing the FDA’s plan of action to clear up consumer confusion and propose new standards for nutrient criteria to minimize inconsistencies among FOP systems.5 FDA also issued guidance to industry regarding FOP labeling.6

In 2010, with the inception of the Let’s Move campaign7 and the White House’s concern about obesity and health, interest in FOP systems has remained strong. FDA has taken a more active role in assessing consumer response to FOP systems, has initiated consumer testing of possible FOP symbols, and has announced a request for comment, information, and data on FOP labeling.8 While this Institute of Medicine study was congressionally mandated and initiated prior to the most recent FDA activities, it is considered by FDA as one component of the work the agency is supporting to gain additional perspective from nutrition and consumer experts on how to best proceed in potential regulation of FOP systems.


Schucker, R. E., A. S. Levy, J. E. Tenney, and O. Mathews. 1992. Nutrition shelf-labeling and consumer purchase behavior. Journal of Nutrition Education 24:75–81.

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