Big Changes Ahead In Food Labels

Starting January 1st, food manufacturers have to tell consumers how much trans fat is in their products. They also have to clearly name any ingredients that might trigger allergies.

Elisa Zied of the American Dietetic Association visited The Early Show on Thursday to discuss some of these important changes.

Zied says the new labeling will give consumers a lot more information.

"For example," she points out, "listing allergens. That's very important for a lot of Americans who are suffering from food allergies, to know exactly what is in the products, not in a cryptic form, but in clear words and clear language."

As for trans fats, Zied says it's also very important that shoppers look at the label: "Look for zero grams of trans fat. That indicates that the product either has very little trans fat or it may even indicate that there is some trans fat," says Zied. "If you take a look at the ingredients list and see words like partially hydrogenated oil or shortening, that means the product has trans fats. So it's not just important to look at number zero. The product may contain some. You want to really limit these."

Zied says consumers need to pay attention to trans fats because they are very dangerous to heart health, and your total cholesterol.

"They raise your LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol, and they also perform something else that is harmful. They lower your good cholesterol. The HDL. A double whammy. For someone with a history of heart decease or family heart disease, or somebody watching their fat calories, you really need to limit, if not avoid completely the foods that contain trans fats," says Zied.

Zied says consumers should keep their intake of trans fats to a minimum. "The advisory committee of the dietary guidelines does suggest limiting them to one percent or less of your total calories. That's about two grams per day," she explains.

One other big change coming in the future is that foodmakers will include on the label how many calories are inside the entire package, versus just in a serving.