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Food Labels

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Additional Resources

Food Labels - Tuesday, November 6, 2007Low-fat...Reduced fat...98% fat free...Low sodium...Very low sodium. What's it all mean? The Food and Drug Administration regulates the labeling of food. It permits a variety of relative claims to be made on food labels, including such claims as low fat, low calorie, and lean.

Low fat means that a food has less than 3 grams of fat per serving. Low calorie means that a serving has 40 calories or less. Lean indicates that a serving has less than 10 grams of fat, less than 95 mg of cholesterol, and no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat. As you can see, keeping track of all of these terms can be confusing.

Canned, jarred, and other packaged foods bear labels that have a Nutrition Facts section. This section simplifies the process of determining what's in the product and whether or not you want to include it as part of a balanced diet. The content per serving of several nutrients is required to be reported, including vitamins A & C, calcium, and iron. Also, Nutrition Facts will show the amount of fat, cholesterol, and protein per serving.

There are structure/function claims that manufacturers can make. The FDA gives them a grade from A to D based upon the scientific evidence that supports them. "A" is the highest rating. Grades from "B" to "D" are considered qualified health claims. For example, qualified health claims are permitted for walnuts, omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats, like olive oil. Many studies have shown that all 3 of these, when included as part of a proper diet, have been associated with a reduced risk for heart disease.

Some terms commonly encountered on food labels:
Generally accepted food claims include (but are not limited to):
For more about health claims found on food labels:

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.