The nutritional facts label is a label required on nearly all pre-packaged foods in North America, United Kingdom and other countries. It is also known as nutrition information panel and various other minor variations.
In the U.S., the nutritional facts label registers the percentage of supplied nutrients needed in one day. In particular cases this label is not yet required by law, so a list of ingredients should be submitted instead. Ingredients are listed from the most common to least common.
The label lists in this order:
1. A standard serving measurement
3. A break down of the constituent elements—Constantly listed are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Typically, sodium and cholesterol, are also listed, sometimes vitamins and minerals too.
Products that claim to be graded as low fat and high-fiber must reach identical definitions between products of like labels.
Under policies from the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services (and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), the food label submits a more comprehensive, helpful and accurate nutrition information than ever before.
With food labels, consumers get:
- Distinctive, easy-to-read layout that enables them to quickly locate the info they need to make healthy food selections
- Information on the quantity per serving of saturated fat, dietary fiber, cholesterol, and other nutrients
- Nutrient reference values, depicted as % Daily Values which helps consumers see how a food matches into a general daily diet
- Uniform descriptions for terms that express a food’s nutrient content (“light,” “low-fat,” and “high-fiber”) to guarantee that such terminologies mean the same for any product on which they come out
- Statements on the connection between a nutrient/food and a disease or health-related condition (fat and cancer, calcium and osteoporosis). These are useful for people who are health-conscious
- Standardized serving sizes that facilitate nutritional evaluation of similar products
The Labels on Cereals
Standards for a healthy cereal:
- Protein content should be at least three grams per serving
- The grains should be whole (e.g. “whole wheat” or “wheat bran,” not only “wheat”).
- The zinc content should be 25 to 40 percent of the recommended daily allowance.
- The total carbohydrate-to-sugar ratio should not be lesser than four to one. This indicates that if the “Total Carbohydrate” line displays 24 grams, the “sugars” should have a value of 6 grams or less.
- Iron content should be 25 to 40 percent of the RDA.
- Content of other vitamins and minerals should be 25 to 40 percent of the RDA.
The Labels on Fruit Juices
Standards for a healthy fruit juice:
- Get juice labeled “100 percent fruit juice.”
- Be wary of words like “drink,” “cocktail,” “beverage” “punch,” and “ade” as these are not 100 percent juice. They are junk fruit beverages with little or no nutritional value.
- Check the ingredients. Steer clear of fruit-flavored beverages that have extra fructose corn syrup as they shape a child’s inclination towards sweet cravings.
- Confirm if the juice is pasteurized. Commercial juices now are expected to state if it is pasteurized on the label as non-pasteurized juice carry bacteria that are particularly damaging to people with weakened immune systems (children, pregnant women, the elderly).
The FDA also imparts guidelines about the claims and descriptions used in food labeling:
|CLAIM||Requirements that must be met before using the claim in food labeling|
|Low fat||3 grams or less of fat per serving|
|Cholesterol-Free||Less than 2 mg cholesterol per serving, and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving|
|Low Calorie||40 calories or less per serving|
|Sugar-Free||Less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving|
|Low Sodium||140 mg or less per serving|
|“Less”, “Fewer” or “Reduced”||At least 25% less of a given nutrient or calories than the comparison food|
|Light (fat)||50% or less of the fat than in the comparison food|