NUTRITIONKEYS

Important nutrition facts may soon appear on the front of food labels, hopes the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, who this week announced a new labeling system called “Nutrition Keys.”

Nutrition Keys, which is voluntary, asks food producers to display calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content on the front of food packages (currently nutrition facts appear on the back of most food products).

A spokesperson for Nutrition Keys says consumers will begin seeing the new icons (shown above) over the next few months, with the more and more products displaying the label throughout 2011.

Participating food producers will be allowed to add two additional nutrients – such as potassium and fiber – provided the product contains at least 10% of the recommended daily value of that nutrient.

Nutrition Keys is designed to help raise people’s awareness of the nutritional quality of the food they consume, in order to help curb the nation’s obesity epidemic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of adults (over 72 million people) were obese between 2005 and 2006. In 2009, CDC data shows Southern and Midwestern states are among the hardest hit; 34.4% of Mississippi’s population is obese – the most in the country.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires labeling on most prepared foods, such as breads, cereals, canned foods, desserts and drinks. Labeling raw produce like fruits, vegetables and fish is voluntary.

In related news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says starting in 2012, nutrition labels will be mandatory on popular cuts of meat and poultry.

Image credit: Grocery Manufacturers Association