Mr. T.N. VENU GOPAL,
ALLIANCE MARITIME (P) LTD,
WHAT IS NUTRITION FACT LABEL?
Nutrition fact label is a standardized format which provide vital information about the nutrient content of the food. This uniformity in presentation of nutrient attributes of food helps the consumers to distinguish between different types of foods and makes comparison easy.
The USFDA in 1990 enacted the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). The NLEA requires the food manufacturers to disclose the fat (saturated and trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sugars and protein content in their products.
The nutrient label should bear the title “Nutrition Facts”.
The top of the label give information such as serving size and servings per container. Serving size represents the amount of food customarily consumed per eating occasion by persons 4 years of age or older. FD has standardized serving size (Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed or RACC) for 139 categories of food including 11 categories of specially formulated food for children under 4 years.
Serving Size differ for different categories of food like;
- Food in single-versus multi-serving containers.
- Meal and main dish products.
- Food requiring additional preparation (eg. mixes and condensed foods).
- Food packaged in large discreet units that are usually divided for consumption (eg. Pies, Pizzas).
- Variety Packs
- Products with separately packaged ingredients for consumption together (eg. Cheese and Cracker Snack Packages).
- Products that naturally vary in size (eg. Pickles).
- Non-discrete bulk products (eg. Breakfast cereals and snack mixes).
- Imitation or substitute products.
- Serving size must be expressed in common house hold measures (eg. Cups, Teaspoon, pieces etc.) followed in parenthesis by the equivalent metric measurement ie., number of grams. This make it easier for the consumer to compare similar foods.
- Below serving size, servings per container is mentioned.
- After this comes amounts per serving. This simply means that the total calorie obtained by consuming a single serving of the food under consideration which include calories from fat, carbohydrate and protein. Total calories and also calories from fat are separately listed. For calculating calories, the following conversion factor is employed :
- Fat – 9 Calories
- Carbohydrate – 4 Calories
- Protein – 4 Calories
- Calories provide a measure of energy one get from a serving of the particular food.
- In the absence of such information, people are likely to consume more calories than what is actually required.
- The calories section of the label thus helps the consumer to decide the exact calorie requirement and thus to manage weight (eg. gain, lose or maintain). As a general guide, upto 40 calories is treated low, 100 moderate, 400 or more as high calorie food.
- Nutrients such as Total Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium appear on top of the nutrient list. Since over consumption of these dietary components can lead to heart diseases, high blood pressure and cancers, it is necessary to limit these nutrients in the food. Saturated fat and cholesterol should be as low as possible is a nutritionally balanced diet as excessive intake of these nutrients is a public health concern.
- This is followed by nutrients such as total carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sugars, Vitamin-A, Vitamin-C, Calcium and Iron. These nutrients are essential to maintain good health. For example a high intake of calcium reduces the chances of Osteoporosis. Similarly, a diet rich in dietary fibre, promotes health bowl function and reduces the chances of colon cancer and peptic ulcers. Like wise, Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s) present in fish oils reduce the risk of heart disease. Thus, nutrition facts label helps the consumer to select food which is rich in useful nutrients and limit the consumption of other nutrients.
- In addition to the nutrients and their amounts listed above, on the right side of the panel is the Percent Daily Value in bold type corresponding to each nutrient. Thus, there is a % Daily Value (DV) for each of the listed nutrient. The percent daily value is based on a 2000-calorie diet which is established as reference because it fulfills the calorie requirement of post menopausal women, who is at risk from excessive intake of calories and fat.
- The lower part of the nutrient label gives as footnote, the upper daily consumption limit for different nutrients based on a 2000-calorie diet.
- The Daily Recommended Value (DRV) stipulated by USFDA for energy producing nutrients are given below :-
- Nutrient Daily Recommended Value (DRV)
- Fat 30% of total calories
- Saturated Fat 10% of total calories
- Carbohydrate 60% of total calories
- Protein 10% of total calories
Fibre 11.5 gm per 1000 calories
Nutrients such as total fat, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium have upper daily limits. This means consumption of these nutrients should be less than the Daily Value. Whereas nutrients like dietary fibre, protein, vitamins, calcium and iron the Daily Value is the lower daily limits. This implies that one has to include maximum amount of these nutrients in the diet for a balanced diet based on 2000 calories.
Daily Values must be declared for all nutrients except calories, protein and other nutrients for which reference amounts have not been established. Percent Daily Value for protein is needed only when a claim is made such as “high in protein”. This is because scientific evidence suggest that protein in take is not a public health concern for adults and children over 4 years of age.
From the Daily Value, we can calculate the % Daily Value of particular nutrients. For example, in the sample nutrition facts label, % Daily Value is calculated as follows :-
Daily Value gm
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13 gm
Sat. fat 5 gm
Cholesterol 30 mg
Sodium 660 mg
Carbohydrate 31 gm
The % DV thus helps to understand if a given food is high or low in a nutrient. The % DV also helps to compare one product or brand to a similar product. Since we can differentiate which food will give higher nutrients and which one lower nutrients provided servicing sizes are similar. %DV also helps to distinguish one claim from another such as “Reduced Fact” vs “Light” or non fat. A comparison of % DV for total fat in each product will reveal which one is higher or lower in that nutrient.
No Daily Value has been established for sugars because no recommendations have been made for the total amount to eat in a day. It should be noted that sugars listed in the nutrition facts label include naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruits-fructose and milk-lactose) as well as those added to a food or drink.
To limit nutrients that have no % DV, like sugars, compare labels of similar products and select the food with lowest amount.
According to FDA, the nutrition labelling is required to reflect the nutrient content of the food at the time of purchase by the ultimate consumer. FDA has no requirement regarding how label values for nutrient content are determined and it is completely the responsibility of the manufacturer. Further, he is under no objection to reveal to FDA the source of its nutrient content information. The manufacturer must resolve issues of cost, speed, label accuracy and reliability of nutrient composition data for NLEX compliance.
Nutrient content determination of food for nutrition labelling can be done either by laboratory analysis as can rely on published database or a combination of both. For chemical analysis for nutrient content determination FDA suggests standardized and internationally approved methods like those published by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC).
NEW FOOD LABEL
- In January 2006, FDA has required that apart from saturated fat and cholesterol, trans-fat should also be included in the nutrition facts panel. This enables the consumers to know how much of all three – saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol are in the food they choose. This provides the consumers to make heart healthy food choices that help to reduce diseases like Coronary Heart Diseases (CHD). Saturated fat and trans-fat are always called ‘bad fats’ because they raise cholesterol and increase a person’s risk for developing heart disease. Both saturated and trans-fat are solid at room temperature. Saturated fat usually comes from animal products like butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream and meats. Trans-fats are naturally found in these foods, too. But they are also in vegetable oils that have been specially treated, or hydrogenated, so they are solid at room temperature – the fats in stick margarine and shortening, for example. Some cookies, crackers, fried foods, snack foods, and processed foods also contain trans-fats. Saturated fats should account for less than 10% of the calories that a child eats each day, and the amount of trans-fat that your child consumes should be as low as possible.
When comparing foods, look at the Nutrition Facts panel, and choose the food with the lower amounts of saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol. Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
Do not assume similar products are the same. Even similar products can vary in calories, ingredients, nutrients and the size and number of servings in a package. Even for the same brand of product, check the Nutrition Facts panel frequently because ingredients can change at any time.
Although the updated Nutrition Facts panel will list the amount of trans-fat in a product, it will not show a Percent Daily value (%DV). While scientific reports have confirmed the relationship between trans-fat and an increased risk of CHD, none has recommended an amount oftrans-fat that the FDA could use to establish a Daily Value or a % DV.
Some practical tips :-
Ø Check the Nutrition Facts panel and choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol.
Ø Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated and trans-fats in your foods with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Sources of MUFA are canola and olive oil and sources of PUFA are soybean oil and corn oil.
Ø Consider fish because most fish contains PUFAS. Fishes like Mackerel, Sardine and Salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids which provide protection against heart diseases.
Ø Choose lean meats, such as poultry without skin and not fried and lean beef and pork, not fried, with visible fat trimmed.
Ø Limit foods in high cholesterol such as liver and organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products, like whole milk.
FOOD ALLERGEN LABELLING
Food Allergies is a growing health issue. FDA in 2004, introduced Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). The Act requires that the label of a food that contains an ingredient that is or contains protein from a ‘major food allergen’ declare the presence of the allergen.
More that 160 foods have been identified to cause food allergies in sensitive individuals. However, according to FDA over 90 percent of all food allergies is caused by eight food items.
They are :-
3. Fish (Eg. Bass, Flounder, Cod)
4. Crustacean Shell Fish (Eg. Crab, Lobster, Shrimps)
5. Tree Nuts (Eg. Almonds & Walnuts)
CLASSES OF NUTRIENTS
FDA classifies Nutrients under two classes :-
- Class I Nutrients : These are nutrients which are intentionally added in fortified or fabricated foods to enhance its nutritive value. Since these nutrient addition is completely under the control of the manufacturer, it is suspected that these nutrients are present at 100% or more of the declared value otherwise the food will be deemed misbranded. Nutrients under Class I generally includes vitamins, minerals, protein, dietary fibre and potassium. Because of this reason, it is advisable to confirm Class I Nutrients by laboratory analysis rather than relying on formulation records.
- Class II Nutrients : These are naturally occurring nutrients and include nutrients indigenous to ingredients added to a food. Since these naturally occurring nutrients may vary, it is suspected that these nutrients are present at 80 percent or more of the declared value. Due to a number of reasons, these nutrient variation can occur like pre-processing storage, nutrient loss or concentration due to freezing, drying, heat processing, or other processing methods, nutrient variability due to difference in product formulation or processing method and post-process handling and storage. Class II Nutrients generally include vitamins, minerals, protein, total carbohydrate, dietary fibre, other carbohydrate, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat and potassium. So the main difference is that while Class I Nutrients are intentionally added to a food, Class II Nutrients are naturally occurring. Because of this reason, if an indigenous natural nutrient (Class II) is added it will be treated as Class I Nutrient (ie., 100 percent or more than the declared value).
- Apart from these two classes of nutrients, FDA identifies “Third Group Nutrients”, which include calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol and sodium. FDA further specifies that these Third Group Nutrients should not exceed more than 120 percent of the declared value.
- The above requirement of 80% min. for Class II Nutrients and 120% max. for Third Group Nutrients is commonly called “80/120” rule.
- While Class I and Class II Nutrients promote health, Third Group Nutrients can cause health problems if consumed above the required level. Therefore, there is always a concern of “Over Declaration” of Class II (claiming more than the actual nutrient content) and “Under Declaration” (claiming less than the actual nutrient content) of Third Group Nutrients.
- The NLEA identifies 15 nutrients as mandatory for nutrient declaration. They are calories, calorie from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sugars, protein, Vitamin-A, Vitamin-C, calcium and iron. There is a second group of voluntary nutrients. These include calories from saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, potassium, soluble and insoluble fibres, sugar alcohol, other carbohydrate, other vitamins and minerals. Though these nutrients can be declared voluntarily, if any claim is made any of them or if a food is fortified or enriched with any of them, then it becomes mandatory to declare their nutrition information. Other than these mandatory and voluntary nutrients FDA does not allow any other nutrient content on the nutrient label.