Supermarket nutrition labeling

The Institute of Medicine has recommended nutrition labeling on the front of food packages that would highlight four key ingredients: calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. The FDA is also planning to establish a single format for front-of-package labels. Labels currently are on the side or back panels of most food packages.

Beginning January , the federal government required nutrition labels that reveal the calories and fat content of 40 popular meat and poultry items. This should cut through the marketing hype of “80 percent lean,” which means 20 percent is not.

Grocery stores are beginning to assist shoppers in selecting healthier food. Grocery chain Hannaford Bros., located in New York and New England, began its Guiding Stars program in 2006. Each food item in the store was assigned zero to three stars based on fats, sodium, added sugars, vitamins, minerals, fiber and whole grains. Excluding produce, only about 15 percent of Hannaford’s food items qualified for at least one star. During its first two years, shoppers bought 2.9 million more starred items each month.

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