According to the 2014 FDA Health and Diet Survey, published in 2016, a significant percentage of U.S. adults, 77%, reported using Nutrition Facts labels when making food purchases, and nearly 9 out of 10 adults stated that they consider claims when buying food products. You often come across claims like “Fat-Free,” “Low in Sodium,” “Light,” “Healthy,” and “High in Calcium and Vitamin D” on food labels. But what do these claims actually mean?
These claims fall under the category of nutrient content claims (NCC). An NCC refers to any direct statement about the level or range of a nutrient in the food, such as “low sodium.” Only NCCs that have been defined by the FDA or USDA are permitted on labeling conventional foods, including meat and poultry products, as well as dietary supplements.
Manufacturers must consider various factors to determine if their product qualifies for an NCC. Manufacturers are not allowed to make non-defined NCCs or use non-prescribed wording, such as “Low in Sugar” or “Free of Trans Fat,” on food or dietary supplement labels. Below are descriptions and synonyms for commonly seen NCCs:
This claim is used when a product contains an insignificant amount of any of the following nutrients: total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, or calories. Synonyms permitted include “negligible source of,” “dietarily insignificant source,” “No,” “Zero,” and “Trivial Source of.”
This claim is used when a product contains a nutrient per Reference Amount that is below the defined level. For example, 3g or less for fat, 140mg or less for sodium. Synonyms permitted include “little,” “few,” “contains a small amount,” and “low source of.”
Good Source Of
This claim is used when a product contains 10-19% of the Daily Value per Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC). Synonyms permitted include “contains” and “provides.”
This claim is used when a product contains 20% or more of the Daily Value per RACC. Synonyms permitted include “excellent source” and “rich in.”
This claim is applicable to seafood or game meats that contain less than 10g total fat, 4.5g or less saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per RACC.
This claim is applicable to seafood or game meat that has 5g total fat, less than 2g saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per RACC.
Why Food Labeling Regulations are Important
As mentioned, consumers rely on claims when making food purchasing decisions. Therefore, it is crucial that all claims made on food labels are truthful, not misleading, and align with the definitions prescribed by the FDA and USDA.
New regulations have been implemented as of January 1, 2020, which impact both new and existing products. These regulations cover aspects such as revised Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC) for certain products, updated Reference Daily Intakes (RDI), changes in units of measurement, modified nutrient definitions, and the inclusion of new mandatory nutrients like Added Sugar and Potassium. It is important to consider and comply with these regulations when including NCCs on your product labels.
Research at Biofortis
Biofortis is dedicated to protecting consumer health throughout the world by delivering a wide range of testing and consultancy services to the food, supplement, and nutrition industries. Biofortis supports this mission in two ways—through clinical trials and sensory and consumer insights testing. We specialize in clinical research targeting foods, ingredients, and dietary supplements that affect body structures, function, and overall health. Contact us with any clinical trial or scientific consulting needs.
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