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Food Labels: What Do They Mean?. April 2006. Importance of Food Labels. Get nutrition information on foods in the grocery store Helps to make healthful food choices Claims to help people concerned about eating certain foods. Food Label Exemptions.

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Food Labels: What Do They Mean?

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Food Labels: What Do They Mean?

April 2006

Importance of Food Labels

  • Get nutrition information on foods in the grocery store

  • Helps to make healthful food choices

  • Claims to help people concerned about eating certain foods

Food Label Exemptions

  • Foods that are to be served and consumed immediately

  • Ready to eat food prepared on site and may not be for immediate consumption

  • Foods shipped in bulk as long as it is not for sale in that form to consumers

  • Medical foods

  • Plain coffee, tea, and some spices and other foods not containing a significant amount of any nutrients

  • Serving size:

  • Basis for reporting each foods nutrition content

  • Amount of food customarily eaten at one time

  • Makes comparisons between products easier

  • % Daily Value:

  • Percent of the nutrient the food contains based on a 2000 calorie/day diet

  • Helps to know how a food fits into the diet

  • This value chosen because it represents the amount of calories needed by most postmenopausal women, the group at highest risk for excessive intake of calories and fat.

  • Nutrition facts panel – shows the amount of each nutrient per serving

  • Fat – based on 30% of total calories

  • Saturated fat – based on 10% of total calories

  • Carbohydrate – based on 60% of total calories

  • Protein – based on 10% of total calories

  • Fiber – based on 11.5 grams/1000 calories consumed

Nutrition panel footnote – reinforces the fact that the % daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet

New Trans Fat Addition

  • Effective January 1, 2006, the amount of trans fat in foods will be added to the nutrition facts label.

  • The addition is due to the adverse effects trans fatty acids have on blood cholesterol levels.

  • FDA will require that that the amount of trans fatty acids be limited wherever saturated fat limits are placed on nutrient content claims, health claims, or disclosure and disqualifying levels.

Nutrient Content Claims

  • Regulations spell out what terms may be used to describe the level of a nutrient in a food and how they can be used

  • Ensures consistency from manufacturer to manufacturer



Low sodium

Low cholesterol

Low calorie



Good source






Common Health Claims

Common Health Claims

  • Free – product contains no amount of or only trivial amount of the component

    -Ex: calorie free – contains fewer than 5 calories/serving

  • Low-fat – foods containing 3 grams of fat or less/serving

  • Low sodium – 140 mg or less/serving

Common Health Claims

  • Low cholesterol – 20 mg or less/serving

  • Low calorie – 40 calories or less/serving

  • Lean – less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol/serving and per 100 grams

  • Extra lean – less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol/serving and per 100 grams

Common Health Claims

  • High – used if a food contains 20% or more of the daily value for a particular nutrient/serving

  • Good source – one serving of a food contains 10-19% of the daily value

  • Reduced – nutritionally altered product contains 25% less of a nutrient or of calories than the regular or reference food

Common Health Claims

  • Less – product may or may not be nutritionally altered and contains 25% less of a nutrient or of calories than a reference food

  • Light/Lite – nutritionally altered product contains 1/3 fewer calories or ½ the fat of a reference food

    the sodium content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has been reduced by 50 percent


Common Health Claims

  • More – a serving of food, whether altered or not, contains a nutrient that is at least 10 percent of the Daily Value more than the reference food.

  • Healthy – food must be low in fat and saturated fat and contain limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium.

    -For a single-item food, it must provide at least 10% of one or more of vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber

For More Information…

  • FDAGeneral Inquiries: Call toll-free 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).Food Safety Hotline: 1-800-332-4010FDA's food label information on the Web:

  • USDAFood Safety Education and Communication Office1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 1180Washington, DC 20250Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-800-535-4555.

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