Food Packaging Claims

Updated:Mar 7,2017

2 men reading food packaging label in grocery storeHave you ever bought a food because the package said the item was “low-sodium” or “low-fat” or made some other claim? It’s important to understand what these claims mean so you can make informed decisions about the food you buy for yourself and your family.

There are three categories of claims defined by statute and/or FDA regulations that can be used on food and dietary supplement labels:

  1. health claims,
  2. nutrient content claims, and
  3. structure/function claims.

A "health claim" by definition has two essential components:

  1. A substance (whether a food, food component, or dietary ingredient) and
  2. A disease or health-related condition.

“Nutrient content claims” are used for two purposes:

  1. To describe the level of a nutrient in the product using terms such as free, high, and low or
  2. To compare the level of a nutrient in a food to another food using terms such as more, reduced, and lite.

Here are some of the most commonly used nutrient content claims, and what each claim generally means.

Calories

If a food claims to be … It means that one serving* contains …
Calorie free Less than 5 calories
Low calorie 40 calories or less
Reduced calorie At least 25% less calories than the regular product

Sugar

If a food claims to be … It means that one serving* contains …
Sugar free Less than 0.5 grams sugars and no ingredient that is a sugar
Reduced sugar or less sugar At least 25% less sugars than the regular product
No added sugar No sugar or sugar-containing ingredient added during processing or packaging

Fat

If a food claims to be … It means that one serving* contains …
Fat free Less than 0.5 g fat and no ingredient that is fat
Low fat 3 g of fat or less (and not more than 30% of calories from fat for meals and main dishes)
Reduced fat or less fat At least 25% less fat than the regular product
Low in saturated fat 1 g or less of saturated fat, and 15% or less of the calories coming from saturated fat (10% or less for meals and main dishes)
Lean Less than 10 g of fat, 4.5 g of saturated fat and 95 mg of cholesterol
Extra lean Less than 5 g of fat, 2 g of saturated fat and 95 mg of cholesterol
Light (lite) At least 50% less fat than the regular product (or 1/3 fewer calories if less than 50% of calories are from fat)

Cholesterol

If a food claims to be … It means that one serving* contains …
Cholesterol free Less than 2 mg of cholesterol and no ingredient that contains cholesterol
Low cholesterol 20 mg of less of cholesterol
Reduced cholesterol At least 25% less cholesterol than the regular product

Sodium

If a food claims to be … It means that one serving* contains …
Sodium free, salt free or no sodium Less than 5 mg of sodium and no ingredient that is sodium chloride or contains sodium
Very low sodium 35 mg or less of sodium
Low sodium 140 mg or less of sodium
Reduced or less sodium At least 25% less sodium than the regular product
Light or lite in sodium At least 50% less sodium than the regular product
Lightly salted 50% less sodium than normally added
No salt added or unsalted No salt added during processing. If the food is not sodium free, the statement “not a sodium free food” or “not for control of sodium in the diet” must also appear on the label.

Fiber

If a food claims to be … It means that one serving* contains …
High fiber or excellent source of fiber 20% or more of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber
Good source of fiber 10-19% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber

*Based on the labeled serving size and/or the reference amount customarily consumed (RACC)

If you can’t remember the meaning of all of the terms, don’t worry. You can use this general guidance:

  • “Free” means a food has the least possible amount of the specified nutrient.
  • “Very Low” and “Low” means the food has a little more than foods labeled “Free.”
  • “Reduced” or “Less” mean the food has 25% less of a specific nutrient than the regular product.
  • "More," "Fortified," "Enriched," "Added," "Extra," or "Plus" means the food has 10% or more of the Daily Value (DV) than the regular product. May only be used for vitamins, minerals, protein, dietary fiber, and potassium.

Last reviewed 12/2014

Sources - FDA Food Labeling Guide: Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims and Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims


Healthy Eating

Receive Healthy Living tips and be Healthy For Good!

 

 

 

 
By clicking the sign up button you agree to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Heart-Check Mark

Heart-Check Food Certification Program

Look for the Heart-Check mark to find products in the grocery store that can help you make smarter choices about the foods you eat. 

Let our heart be your guide.

Reduce Your Sodium Intake

reduce your sodium