Organic ... healthy ... all-natural.

You see these words on packaged food labels all the time, but what do they actually mean?

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ 6th District, is unveiling the Food Labeling Modernization Act that would clarify these terms and improve the nutrition information on labels.

"The bill basically empowers consumers to shop better and compare better because they'll actually have a better knowledge of what they're buying," he said.

Packaged food labels often provide inadequate or misleading information that make it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions, says Pallone. The legislation would update front-of-packaging labeling requirements in order to prevent these misleading health claims and require updates to the ingredient list on packaged foods.

The majority of the food labeling provisions of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act have not been updated since 1990 and in some cases have not been changed since1938. As a result, labels do not provide the information that today's consumers need to evaluate and compare products in order to make healthy choices.

Pallone says his signature initiative will direct the Health and Human Services secretary to establish a single, standard front-of-package nutrition labeling system for all food products required to bear nutrition labeling.

Things like saturated fat, for example, would be a factor in determining whether something is healthy or not. The FLMA will address this problem and take a comprehensive approach to ensuring consistency and clarity.

"I say this is a right-to-know-bill. In other words, a right to know what you're purchasing and what these labels mean in terms of what you're actually eating and buying," Pallone said.

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