Under regulations 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 offers more complete, useful and accurate nutrition information than ever before.
With today's food labels, consumers get:
- Nutrition information about almost every food in the grocery store distinctive, easy-to-read formats that enable consumers to more quickly find the information they need to make healthful food choices
- Information on the amount per serving of saturated fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and other nutrients of major health concern
- Nutrient reference values, expressed as % Daily Values, that help consumers see how a food fits into an overall daily diet
- Uniform definitions for terms that describe a food's nutrient content--such as "light," "low-fat," and "high-fiber"--to ensure that such terms mean the same for any product on which they appear
- Claims about the relationship between a nutrient or food and a disease or health-related condition, such as calcium and osteoporosis, and fat and cancer. These are helpful for people who are concerned about eating foods that may help keep them healthier longer.
- Standardized serving sizes that make nutritional comparisons of similar products easier
- Declaration of total percentage of juice in juice drinks. This enables consumers to know exactly how much juice is in a product.
- Free. This term means that a product contains no amount of, or only trivial or "physiologically inconsequential" amounts of, one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, and calories. For example, "calorie-free" means fewer than 5 calories per serving, and "sugar-free" and "fat-free" both mean less than 0.5 g per serving. Synonyms for "free" include "without," "no" and "zero." A synonym for fat-free milk is "skim".
- Low. This term can be used on foods that can be eaten frequently without exceeding dietary guidelines for one or more of these components: fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories. Thus, descriptors are defined as follows:
Low-fat: 3 g or less per serving
Low-saturated fat: 1 g or less per serving
Low-sodium: 140 mg or less per serving
Very low sodium: 35 mg or less per serving
Low-cholesterol: 20 mg or less and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving
Low-calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
Synonyms for low include "little," "few," "low source of," and "contains a small amount of."
Lean and extra lean. These terms can be used to describe the fat content of meat, poultry, seafood, and game meats.
- Lean: less than 10 g fat, 4.5 g or less saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.
- Extra lean: less than 5 g fat, less than 2 g saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.
- High. This term can be used if the food contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient in a serving.
- Good source. This term means that one serving of a food contains 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient.
- Reduced. This term means that a nutritionally altered product contains at least 25 percent less of a nutrient or of calories than the regular, or reference, product. However, a reduced claim can't be made on a product if its reference food already meets the requirement for a "low" claim.
- Less. This term means that a food, whether altered or not, contains 25 percent less of a nutrient or of calories than the reference food. For example, pretzels that have 25 percent less fat than potato chips could carry a "less" claim. "Fewer" is an acceptable synonym.
- Light. This descriptor can mean two things: First, that a nutritionally altered product contains one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the reference food. If the food derives 50 percent or more of its calories from fat, the reduction must be 50 percent of the fat.
Second, that the sodium content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has been reduced by 50 percent. In addition, "light in sodium" may be used on food in which the sodium content has been reduced by at least 50 percent. The term "light" still can be used to describe such properties as texture and color, as long as the label explains the intent--for example, "light brown sugar" and "light and fluffy."
A more complete list of the regulations that pertain to food labeling can be found at the following address: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/foodlabel/newlabel.html