Report: Food labels need Energy Star-like ratings

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“If they have a health claim, consumers view that product overall as a healthy product,” said Tracy Fox, a Washington, D.C., nutrition consultant and member of the IOM committee. “At least half of them that have a nutrient content claim are higher in one of those (other ingredients) we think consumers should reduce.”

Under the IOM’s proposed system, foods would earn up to three points for meeting certain nutritional standards _ one each for keeping sodium, added sugars or a bad-fat duo, saturated fat and trans fat, below designated levels.

On the cereal aisle, plain oatmeal might get three points while the flavored kind would get just two because of added sugar, for example.

“If I always buy Triscuits, I’m going to buy them again. But if there is a decision that needs to be made, we hope this will help consumers make better decisions,” said the IOM committee’s Fox.

Some foods are so unhealthy as to be unrated altogether _ a sugary soft drink wouldn’t get a point for its lack of fat. Whatever the rating, the IOM proposal says all foods also would need a clear front-of-package calorie count: 150 calories for 16 potato chips, for example.

For now, the Grocery Manufacturers Association says the industry has begun rolling out voluntary labels called “Facts Up Front,” which will list calories and the amount of saturated fat, sodium and sugars per serving _ levels, not ratings.

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Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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