TORONTO – Health Canada announced a broad initiative aimed at helping consumers eat healthier foods. The proposed plan includes changes to nutrition labels.

The initiative calls for changes that will make food labels easier to compare nutrient contents of similar foods. Ingredient labels also would be easier to read.

“Parents told us they have difficulty comparing similar food products because the serving sizes displayed on labels were inconsistent and did not reflect the amount of food they typically eat,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose said. “For this reason, our government is mandating the standardization of serving sizes so Canadians can more easily compare products and make better decisions about healthy foods.”

The government also is proposing changes to labeling sugars in food. Under the proposed changes, labels would include a percentage daily value for sugar, how much sugar is in a product and the source of the sugar. Additionally, the proposal changes how sugars are identified in the list of ingredients.

“Our government is breaking new ground with our proposal on the labeling of sugars on foods sold in Canada,” Ambrose said. “Nowhere else in the world will consumers have the kind of information Canadians will have about the sugars contained in the foods they eat. This information will help them understand how much sugar is in a product, whether it’s a little or a lot of sugar, and where the sugar comes from.”

The proposal also requires manufacturers to list all food coloring agents by their common name within the ingredient list on the label. Health Canada believes this will help consumers who have sensitivities to specific food colors to avoid those ingredients.

A new health claim would be allowed on pre-packaged fruits and vegetables so that Canadians know about the health benefits of eating produce.

“The proposed changes will help dietitians better guide Canadian’s food choices,” said Marsha Sharp, CEO of Dietitians of Canada. “Specifically, the grouping of sugars within the list of ingredients, as well as updated percent Daily Values and the change to standardized serving sizes in the Nutrition Facts table will make it easier for consumers to identify foods best suited to their health needs.”

Public education tools developed in conjunction with the proposed label changes include a My Food Guide mobile app and the Eat Well Plate. Health Canada said the new tools will help consumers apply Canada’s Food Guide dietary guidance to build healthier meals.

The Eat Well Plate will help Canadians visualize food proportions, and encourages them to make half their plate vegetables and fruit. Its recommendations for meat consumption encourage lean cuts of meat.

“If you eat meat, a little goes a long way. Choose lean cuts like chicken or turkey breast, pork tenderloin or inside round pork roast, eye of round roast or inside round beef steak.”

The guidelines also recommend peas, beans, lentils or tofu as alternatives to meat-based proteins.

The proposed changes to food labels are open for a 75-day public comment period which ends Aug. 26. The changes will be published inCanada Gazette, Part 1 on June 13.