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Food labels moving to the front of packages

Associated Press / October 26, 2008
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MILWAUKEE - The nation's dietitians, food makers, and retailers want you to know how many calories are in that frozen pizza you devoured last night - and they don't want you to have to go looking for it.

Amid widespread concern about obesity, eating habits, and exercise patterns, they say they'll help people make better eating choices by designating thousands of products as part of the new Smart Choices program and adding nutritional information to the front of packages.

The labels, featuring calories per serving and number of servings, will likely be on products from food and beverage companies like Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Coca-Cola Co., and PepsiCo starting next year, organizers say.

The goal of the program, unveiled at the American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, is to get people to make smarter food choices and thus improve public health.

Dr. Eileen Kennedy, a member of the coalition, said they want to take the guesswork out of food choices.

"It's simple, straightforward," she said. "You can make a choice that's a 'better for you choice' in a matter of seconds."

The labels will have two parts. First, there will be a green check mark and the "Smart Choices Program" label for foods that meet certain nutritional requirements within some categories. The other part highlights the calories per serving and the servings per container.

Academics like Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, along with food makers, retailers, and advocacy groups have spent nearly two years working on the program.

They didn't want to base it entirely on the USDA's food pyramid because it doesn't truly reflect how people eat and how people buy food. Studies have shown only 2 percent to 4 percent of Americans have diets that meet those guidelines, Kennedy said. People eat from more categories than what's on the pyramid, so the new labels reflect that.

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