New food labels take the guesswork out of grocery shopping

Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 10:37:42-04
We are all pretty used to the nutrition facts panel on the side of our food packaging these days, but there's another system of food labeling that's supposed to make it easier for busy shoppers to pick what's best for them quickly: The Facts up Front labels.  
Yet these quick and easy-to-see ingredient icons aren't a mandatory requirement for manufacturers and busy parents want to know why. 
Suzanne Chan works hard to keep her kids healthy.  
"Two of my boys have severe, severe food allergies. They have a lot of nutritional deficiencies, and I'm always trying to figure out the right balance," Chan said. 
So, food shopping for her can take a while.  
"It's tough, I'm looking at all the different labels and some of them are complicated, scientific words that i might have to look up or Google," she said. 
But lucky for Suzanne, some companies are making it simpler for her to find what she needs in an instant with something called 'Facts up Front' labels. 
"It makes it easy to quickly spot a couple of key components, like, let's say you're looking for sodium, you want to check out the calories. Those bits of information have simply been brought from the nutritional facts panel, up in front, so you can spot them at a glance without even letting go of your cart," said Kim Kircherr, a registered dietitian with the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
The Facts up Front labels are part of an initiative with the GMA and Food Marketing Institute.  The goal: To make it easier to see just how healthy your options are.
"There's over 100 brands that are already using it, so, a store brand like IGA, or a national brand, across the country you can see these.  It's a voluntary program and it can be found in any grocery store across the country," she said. 
However, it's not a mandatory program for manufacturers and the Center for Science in the Public Interest argues this is just a marketing tool.  It wants the FDA to come up with another easy to use system. The FDA is monitoring the recent changes and the GMA is content with current progress.  
"Knowledge is power and this brings information that people are used to from the nutrition facts panel right to the front of the package," Kircherr said. 
Chan said she just wants to see the information up front and easy for everyone.  
"I've got 3 kids, work full time, I'm in school, as well, so packaged foods are easy for me, but I must, must know exactly what's in everything," she said. 
Meantime, smart labels were released last December, offering even more details on facts such as where foods are grown.  

Download the ABC2 News app for the iPhone, Kindle and Android.