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Federal government proposes changes to food labels

EDMONTON - The federal government says proposed changes to food labels should make it more clear how much sugar is in packaged food.

Among the changes, Health Canada says both total sugars and added sugars would be required information on nutrition tables.

It also says suggested serving sizes would be more consistent among similar foods.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose made the announcement Monday at an Edmonton grocery store. She hopes the changes will make it easier for people to make healthy choices.

"We heard repeatedly from parents that they understand there are natural sugars in many things that their kids eat, food like fruit, of course. But they also want to know how much sugar is added to foods," Ambrose told a news conference.

"Parents want to know how much sugar is being added in total to their children's cereal, for example ... Whether it's molasses or brown sugar, all types of sugars will be grouped together. This makes the label much more transparent and allows shoppers to quickly see how much added sugars are in a food, compared to other ingredients."

She said there will be a series of online, public consultations on the proposals. The consultations are to run until Sept. 11.

David Wilkes with the Retail Council of Canada says the group welcomes the changes.

"Canadians are always seeking more information about the foods they eat, so we think this is a step in the right direction," Wilkes said.

"One of the things we will be talking to Health Canada about is to introduce these changes in a way that is consistent with regular changes that go on with the industry to ensure that we are not adding unnecessary costs for Canadians."

The Canadian Beverages Association said in a news release that it will review and comment on the proposed changes.

"Our members provide consumers with a wide range of beverage sizes and options, including many that are no and low-calorie. Information on ingredients used by our members such as low calorie sweeteners can be found on association website as well as Health Canada's.

"In addition, through Clear on Calories, our members have come together to put clear and consumer-friendly calorie information on the front of all packaging. By clearly displaying the caloric content of our products, our industry is making it easier for Canadians to make informed dietary choices to meet individual needs and fit into their overall caloric intake."

— With files from CHED

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