10 Food Label Claims and What They Mean

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Food nutrition facts

In our previous post about food label claims, we took a look at the types of claims consumers see in the supermarket, and learned a little about the regulatory agencies who oversee the use of such claims. The takeaway message was simple: we need to be smart shoppers.

In part 2 of this series, we are going to take that information and apply it to what we actually see at the grocery store. Here are 10 food label claims and what they actually mean to the everyday consumer.

Organic. Under USDA regulation, organic food products can be identified as organic, 100 percent organic, and made with organic (fill in the blank). Products labeled organic must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The other 5 percent may be non-organic if the ingredients cannot be found commercially as organic. These products can carry the USDA Organic label on the principal display panel, which is the most visible portion of a product’s packaging. If you’ve ever purchased an organic product, you’ve probably seen that green and white seal. Products that are 100 percent organic contain only organic ingredients, not including salt and water. These also carry the USDA Organic label in an area that is easily visible to consumers. Foods with at least 70 percent organic ingredients can claim they are made with organic (fill in the blank). Though they can’t display the USDA organic seal, food manufacturers can list up to three ingredients or ingredient categories.  Foods with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can only have such ingredients listed in the information panel. The USDA organic seal cannot be on these types of products.

Natural. A concrete definition of natural doesn’t currently exist in the world of food, but the FDA does consider natural products to be foods having no artificial or synthetic ingredients added. This loose definition doesn’t pertain to pesticide use, nutritional adequacy, or pasteurization and other techniques used by food manufacturers.

GMO. Genetically modified organism (GMO) claims refer to foods that are not bioengineered. These are regulated by the FDA and can be found under other terms and descriptions like not bioengineered or not genetically bioengineered. Claims like these can be misleading as their use depends on the truthfulness of food manufacturers. The FDA only takes action against these claims if they are found to be false. You are likely to see non-GMO claims popping up more and more, but keep in mind that the use of this claim is not regulated.

[Tweet theme=”tweet-box-shadow”]GMO claims aren’t always what they seem. Be careful. #RGV #healthy #eating #food #labels #food #claims #GMO[/Tweet]”

Healthy. It’s been a couple of decades since the FDA has updated the definition of “healthy” that actually fits with the most current nutrition and health research. Thankfully, the administration is now buckling down on fat. The focus is shifting from the amount of fat a food has, to the type of fat found in food and food products. Remember trans-fat and saturated fat is bad while mono- and polyunsaturated fat is healthy. If you see healthy on a food package, it can mean one of two things:

  1. The food has a fat content that is predominantly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  2. The food contains at potassium and vitamin D at a dose that is at least 10 percent of daily value.

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Transfat and saturated fat bad. Mono and polyunsaturated fat good. #RGV #healthy #eating #foot #labels #claims[/Tweet]

Good Source/Excellent Source. For a food to be considered a Good Source of some nutrient, it must contain 10 to 19 percent of the recommended daily value of said nutrient. Excellent Source claims pertain to foods that contain at least 20 percent of the daily value of a nutrient. If you’ve ever seen high or rich in printed on a package, those are also indicators of excellent sources. Be wary, though. For nutrients that don’t have a recommended daily intake, food manufacturers cannot use such claims.

Low. Foods with the low claim are a beast of their own. Low can refer to total fat and saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol, and calories. Most consumers who purchase products with healthful intentions tend to look for low food label claims. You’ll see low used in the following ways:

  • Low-calorie foods contain 40 calories or less per serving.
  • Low-cholesterol foods contain 20 milligrams or less per serving. This only refers to foods that also have less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
  • Low-sodium foods must have 140 milligrams of sodium (salt) or less per serving.
  • Very low sodium foods have only 35 milligrams of sodium or less.
  • Low-fat foods must have 3 grams or less of total fat per serving.
  • Low-saturated fat foods have 1 gram or less per serving. This also means that the food can provide no more than 15 percent of calories from saturated fat.

Light. Foods with the light, or lite, claim are reduced in calories from fat. This label can be used in foods that have had their calories from fat cut in half if the original or standard recipe had at least 50 percent of its calories coming from fat.It can be a little confusing to wrap one’s head around this concept.

Here’s a little more to digest. In foods in which the original formula had less than 50 percent of calories from fat, total calories must be reduced by 33.3 percent or fat content must be cut in half in order for that food to have the label light or lite. Just think about yogurt. Next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up a single cup serving of yogurt and check out the front label. The light claim should identify how much its calories or fat were reduced.

Free. Here is another food label claim that is definitely regulated by the FDA. For a food to be considered free, the food must lack any perceived negative qualities. Fat-free and sugar-free are the most commonly recognized and purchased. Dairy products often make this claim. Think about the last carton of milk you purchased, or even Snack Pack puddings. These claims mean that a serving of a specific food must have less than 0.5 grams of either sugar or fat. Gluten-free is another category that has exploded in supermarkets in recent years. Foods that are gluten-free must have less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

No Hormones Added. This refers to the use of hormones in animal products and the claim is regulated by the USDA. In beef labels, you may see the phrase no hormones administered if the manufacturer can prove that hormones were not used to raise the cattle. Because the use of hormones is prohibited in pigs and egg-laying hens, the phrase no hormones added is not used on pork and poultry products. Don’t get this confused with the use of antibiotics which you will see on some poultry products.

No Antibiotics. USDA regulates the use of this term in red meat, poultry, and eggs. In order to include this claim on their product packaging, food manufacturers or producers must be able to prove that the animals were not raised with antibiotics. Ever notice this phrase on packaged chicken at H-E-B or Walmart? More and more food manufacturers and producers are releasing these types of foods to cater to consumer demand for healthier, more natural alternatives.

[Tweet theme=”tweet-box-normal-blue”]Keep an eye out for these 10 food label claims. #organic #natural #GMO #healthy #low #light #free #nohormones[/Tweet]

There you have it fellow Valley citizens. A list of food label claims and what they mean. If you care about what you eat or want to begin watching your fat and sugar intake, then learning to properly read nutrition labels can really help you pick the right stuff to start eating and living healthy. It might take a little practice, but I know you’ll be a healthy food connoisseur in no time.

 

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Joann Martinez
JoAnn is a graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American where she obtained a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication with a minor in English. She is an inquisitive, ambitious and lively person with an undeniable passion for the written word.

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