Friday, November 5, 2010

Nutrition and Health Claims

You probably know you should be checking the Nutrition Facts label on food items you are eating.  But with all the health claims and nutrients listed, sometimes it's tough to figure out what exactly you should be looking for! What does it mean if something is "low-fat" or a "good source of _____"? The Food and Drug Administration has established guidelines on what food products can claim on their packaging. 

Here are the common health claims you'll see and what they really mean:
"Reduced"= 25% less of the calories or nutrient than the normal product
"Light"= 1/3 of the calories OR 1/2 of the fat of the normal product
"Low-calorie"= Less than 40 calories (per serving)
"Fat-free"= Less than 0.5 gram of fat (per serving)
"Sugar-free"= Less than 0.5 gram of sugar (per serving)
"Low-sodium"= <140mg of sodium (per serving)
"Good source of"= Provides at least 10% of the Daily Value of a nutrient (per serving)

The FDA is taking a step in the right direction to further clarify food labeling through the "Front-of-Package Labeling Initiative".  This program will target products with food labels that give misleading messages of potential health benefits.  The initiative is working to ensure that claims made on the front of food packaging are truthful and useful in helping consumers make healthier choices.  Companies that are found to be in violation are given warnings and must respond within 15 days with how they are or will be taking action to make corrections.

So next time you're out stocking up on groceries, beware of the health claims on the front of packaging, and be sure to check out the Nutrition Facts label as well! Happy shopping! :)

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