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What's In A Food Label?
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In 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act went into effect. The USDA and the FDA designed the requirements so that consumers would have useful information about the food they eat. But how do you make sense of a food label?

According to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, all food labels must contain the following information:

  • Common name of the product
  • Name and address of the product’s manufacturer
  • Net contents in terms of weight, measure or count, and:

Ingredient List – Lists the ingredients in descending order of predominance and weight. In Krispy Krunchies, the ingredients are listed at the bottom of the label. As you can see, the predominant ingredient is corn, In 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act went into effect. The USDA and the FDA designed the requirements so that consumers would have useful information about the food they eat. But how do you make sense of a food label?next is oil, then cheese, etc.

Serving Sizes – Each package must identify the size of a serving. In Krispy Krunchies, one package contains one serving. The nutritional information given on the label is based on one serving of the food.

Nutrition Facts – each package must identify the quantities of specified nutrients and food constituents for one serving. From this information, you can gleam some very useful information. The most important thing to remember is this:

  • 1 gr. fat = 9 calories
  • 1 gr. protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gr. carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 1 gr. alcohol = 7 calories

Therefore, we can tell the percentages of each nutrient in Krispie Krunchies:

 

Grams

Calculation

Total
Calories

% of Total

Calories

 

 

80

100

Fat

4

4 * 9

36

45

Protein

1

1 * 4

4

4

Carbohydrate

10

10 * 4

40

50

 

[pie chart]

Graphically, the components look like this pie chart. Note that this food is not a very healthy choice because of its high fat content.

food labelsAdditionally, we can tell that of the 10 grams of total carbohydrate, 1 gram (10%) comes from simple sugars, rather than from complex carbohydrates.

fat gramsFurthermore, we can tell that of the 4 total grams of
fat, 0.5 grams
(or 11%) is
saturated fat --
the fat we would like to
avoid.

 

The "*% Daily Values" section provides an estimate of the percentage of total nutrients that one serving of Krispy Krunchies provides. For example, if you were consuming 2000 calories per day, one serving of Krispie Krunchies would provide 6% of the recommended day’s allotment of fat (4 grams out of a total 65 grams allotted), and 3% of the recommended day's allotment of carbohydrate (10 grams out of a total 300 grams allotted).

The "Calories From Fat" is also instructive for a quick estimate of a product’s fat content. We can see that one serving of Krispie Krunchies contains a total of 80 calories –35 of the calories are from fat. That means that 35 calories out of a total of 80 calories, or approximately 45% of Krispie Krunchies’ calories, come from fat. If you looked at the ingredient list, you could tell that oil is listed as the 2nd ingredient, which confirms that fat is a very large component of this food product.

 

FDA Specifications for Health Claims and Descriptive Terms

The FDA also provides guidelines about the claims and descriptions manufacturers may use in food labeling to promote their products:

Claim

Requirements that must be met before using the claim in food labeling

Fat-Free

Less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, with no added fat or oil

Low fat

3 grams or less of fat per serving

Less fat

25% or less fat than the comparison food

Saturated Fat Free

Less than 0.5 grams of saturated fat and 0.5 grams of trans-fatty acids per serving

Cholesterol-Free

Less than 2 mg cholesterol per serving, and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving

Low Cholesterol

20 mg or less cholesterol per serving and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving

Reduced Calorie

At least 25% fewer calories per serving than the comparison food

Low Calorie

40 calories or less per serving

Extra Lean

Less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol per (100 gram) serving of meat, poultry or seafood

Lean

Less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 g of saturated fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol per (100 gram) serving of meat, poultry or seafood

Light (fat)

50% or less of the fat than in the comparison food (ex: 50% less fat than our regular cheese)

Light (calories)

1/3 fewer calories than the comparison food

High-Fiber

5 grams or more fiber per serving

Sugar-Free

Less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving

Sodium-Free or Salt-Free

Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving

Low Sodium

140 mg or less per serving

Very Low Sodium

35 mg or less per serving

Healthy

A food low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and contains at least 10% of the Daily Values for vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or fiber.

"High", "Rich in" or "Excellent Source"

20% or more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient per serving

"Less", "Fewer" or
"Reduced"

At least 25% less of a given nutrient or calories than the comparison food

"Low", "Little", "Few", or "Low Source of"

An amount that would allow frequent consumption of the food without exceeding the Daily Value for the nutrient – but can only make the claim as it applies to all similar foods

"Good Source Of", "More", or "Added"

The food provides 10% more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient than the comparison food

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