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WASHINGTON — The FDA wants to make it easier for consumers to know if the foods they’re buying are unhealthy — but doing so is harder than it seems here in the United States.

Many North, South, and Central American countries already have so-called front of package labels — small symbols printed on packaged foods that alert consumers when a food is high in certain unhealthy nutrients like sodium or saturated fat. The U.S. has no such requirement. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is embarking on a major study to test front of package labels here in the U.S., which could soon line grocery store shelves. The agency hopes to release a proposed regulation on these labels by December, the agency recently disclosed in a regulatory filing.


But designing a label is harder than it looks, and nearly every country does it differently. The FDA is also facing pressure from the food industry here in the United States, which is already hinting it may sue if the FDA requires labels it sees as too strong.

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