"Diet is the primary factor in reducing high cholesterol levels, and education of the public will help," says Jean L. Johnson of the American Heart Association.

The education process can begin this Sunday at the Hechinger Mall Safeway, Benning and Bladensburg roads NE, where shoppers can take recorded, museum-style tours to teach them how to shop for healthy foods. Heart symbols are placed throughout the store, and customers stop at each heart to hear recorded messages about the foods in that aisle.

A recent Food and Drug Administration poll prompted the heart assocation to establish an annual food festival to focus national attention on the importance of eating foods low in cholesterol and fat. The festival will take place Sept. 8 through 14.

"The optimum for adults under the age of 30 is to have a blood cholesterol level of 180 milligrams, and 200 milligrams for people 30 and older," says Johnson. "Cholesterol intake should be limited to no more than 300 milligrams per day."

The tour is helpful because it points out some common food myths. "People always say they don't eat pork because it has too much fat," says Johnson, "but pork loin a lean pork chop has less than some cuts of beef." Pork loin has 16 percent fat, compared with 33 percent for a steak or rib roast.

"Fruit yogurt is not as low in calories as some people think," Johnson continues. "We suggest buying plain yogurt and mixing it with fresh fruit."

Tours will begin Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Other food festival programs will be at some Giant food stores in the suburbs. For more information, call: 337-6400.