CHICAGO – Several of the nation’s biggest food makers, including Kraft Foods, have created a common nutrition label that will be featured on the packaging of their products.

The label, which was developed with the input of academic nutritionists, is aimed at helping consumers make sense of the competing claims made by individual companies, a jumble that has been criticized by nutrition labeling watchdogs.

The label, dubbed “Smart Choices,” will be featured on products made by General Mills, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kellogg and Con-Agra, as well as Kraft. Wal-Mart, the nation’s leading grocery retailer, also played a roll in developing the program, though the label will be carried on products sold at all grocery stores.

The Smart Choice label, which will begin appearing on products in mid-2009, is aimed at providing easy-to-understand, at-a-glance guidance, the companies said in a press release. To qualify for the Smart Choice label, products cannot exceed certain levels of fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium.

In addition, they for the most part must provide such positive nutrients as calcium, fiber and vitamin C; or be in healthy food groups, such as fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy.

Products with the Smart Choice label will also have a front-of-the-package display of calories per-serving the number of servings per container.

The companies plan to formally roll-out the program Monday at a conference of the American Dietetic Association in Chicago.

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