Food Labels

Understanding Food Labels

Before you buy, or eat, any foods, you should know what label claims really mean1.

Fat

  • Fat free: The food must not contain more than 0.15 grams total fat per 100 grams of food. If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically free of fat, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.
  • Low fat: The food must not contain more than 3 grams total fat per 100 grams of food (or 1.5 grams total fat per 100 grams of liquid food). If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically low in fat, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods
  • Reduced fat: The food must not contain more than 75 per cent of the total fat content of the same quantity of the reference food and there must be a reduction of at least 3 grams of fat per 100 grams of food (or 1.5 grams of fat per 100 grams of liquid food), compared with the same quantity of the reference food. There must be a statement of comparison with the reference food.

Remember!

Some fats, when consumed in moderation, actually help to both lower your cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. These include mono and polyunsaturated fats.

Sugar

  • Sugar free: The food must not contain more than 0.2 grams of sugars per 100 grams of food (or 0.1 grams of sugars per 100 grams of liquid food). If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically free of sugars, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.
  • Low sugar(s): The food must not contain more than 5 grams total sugars per 100 grams of the food, (or 2.5 grams total sugars per 100 grams of liquid food). If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically low in sugars, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.
  • Reduced sugar(s): The food must not contain more than 75 per cent of the total sugars content of the same quantity of the reference food, and there must be a reduction of at least 5 grams total sugars per 100 grams of food, (or 2.5 grams total sugars per 100 grams of liquid food) compared with the same quantity of the reference food. There must be a statement of comparison with the reference food.

Remember!

Even foods that say "no sugar added" or "reduced sugar" can be high in carbs. For example, fructose and lactose are sugars naturally found in fruit and dairy. That's why it's important to look beyond the package claims and check the nutrition information panel.

Sodium

  • Low sodium/salt: The food must not contain more than 120 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams, or not more than 50 per cent of the sodium content of the normal counterpart food, whichever is less. If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically low in sodium, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.
  • Very low sodium/salt: The food must not contain more than 40 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of food. If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically low in sodium, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.
  • Reduced sodium/salt: The food must not contain more than 75 per cent of the sodium content of the same quantity of the reference food; and the food must contain at least 90 milligrams less sodium per 100 grams of food than the same quantity of the reference food; and the food must not contain more than 600 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of food. There must be a statement of comparison with the reference food.
  • Sodium/salt free: The food must not contain more than 5 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of food, (or 2.5 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of liquid food). If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically low in sodium, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.

Remember!

Though sodium doesn't affect blood glucose levels, people with high blood pressure or who are at risk of high blood pressure may need to consume less.

Cholesterol

  • Reduced cholesterol: The food must either meet the conditions for a 'low fat' claim or the fatty acid component of the food must contain no more than 20 per cent saturated fatty acids and not less than 40 per cent of cis-polyunsaturated or of cis-monounsaturated fatty acids. The food must meet the conditions for the claim 'low cholesterol', and must carry a statement of comparison with the reference food.
  • Low cholesterol: The food must not contain more than 20 mg cholesterol per 100 grams of food and the food must either meet the conditions for a 'low fat' claim or the fatty acid component of the food must contain no more than 20 per cent saturated fatty acids and not less than 40 per cent of cis-polyunsaturated or of cis-monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • Cholesterol free: The food must not contain more than 3 mg cholesterol per 100 grams of food and the food must either meet the conditions for a 'low fat' claim or the fatty acid component of the food must contain no more than 20 per cent saturated fatty acids and not less than 40 per cent of cis-polyunsaturated or of cis-monounsaturated fatty acids. If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically free of cholesterol, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.

Remember!

Saturated and trans fat from your diet have the most affect on raising blood cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease.

Fibre

  • Source of fibre: The food must contain not less than 1.5 grams of dietary fibre per serving of food.
  • High in fibre: The food must contain not less than 3 grams of dietary fibre per serving of the food.
  • Very high fibre: The food must contain not less than 6 grams of dietary fibre per serving of food. If the claim is made for a food naturally or intrinsically very high in fibre, it must refer to the whole class of similar foods.
  • Increased fibre: The food must contain not less than 3 grams of dietary fibre per serving of food; these claims may only be applied to foods which contain, prior to enrichment with dietary fibre, at least 1.5 grams of dietary fibre per serving. There must be a statement of comparison with the reference food; in this case, the reference food must be a similar food made from the same ingredients but without enrichment with dietary fibre.

Remember!

In a diet for people with diabetes, if a food has more than 3 grams of fibre per serving, you can subtract half the grams of fibre from the total carbohydrate grams to get the new total carbohydrate grams amount.

1. Australia New Zealand Food Authority, Code of Practice – Nutrient Claims in Food Labels and in Advertisements, available at http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/Code_of_Practice_jan1995.pdf Published January 1995. Accessed July 23, 2010

This site is published by Heartland Food Products Group, LLC  which is solely responsible for its contents. It is intended for visitors from Australia only. See our Legal Notice and Privacy Policy. © Heartland Consumer Products. All rights reserved. ® Registered Trademark Heartland Food Products Group, LLC