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Senate gives okay to food-labeling bill

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would require nutritional information on almost all packaged foods on grocery-store shelves. For the first time, the bill also would strictly regulate health and nutritional claims on food labels, requiring them to be backed up by scientific evidence and balanced by alerts about ingredients that do not promote health.

Spokesmen for the food industry and consumer groups alike praised the legislation. They predicted the House, which passed its own version in July, would pass the Senate version later this week.

"The bill is expected to be signed by the president," said Charles Mitchell, a spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group. The Senate passed the bill without objection.

The bill would require nutrition labeling on almost all food regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That excludes meat and poultry and food sold in restaurants and delicatessens. Condiments and foods consumed in insignificant amounts also would be exempted.

The details of the new labels, which would be required within 30 months of the bill's enactment, would be left to FDA.

But the bill would require that labels inform consumers of how calories in the food break down by source _ fat, carbohydrate and protein. Carbohydrate calories would be further broken down into those from sugars versus those from complex carbohydrates such as starches.

Currently FDA requires nutrition labeling only on packaged foods that include health claims or have added nutrients.

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