We've all seen the nutrition facts on foods. The official looking panel has been part of the product label since 1994 and lets us know how much of this or that nutrient is in a serving of that food. The standardized format lends a certain credibility to the information it contains.
But what about the claims made on the front of the package and in food ads?
Stretching the Truth in Product Labeling Claims
When the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was passed by Congress in 1990, it included regulations for the nutrient content claims that can appear on food labels. These regulations cover the words and phrases that can be used to describe the nutrient content, whereas the Nutrition Facts panel contains the actual amounts.
Did you know a food can't claim it's "high" or "low" in a nutrient unless it meets strict definitions set by the government for use of those terms? Same for "light," "low," and "lean." The nutrient content claim regulations for what can be said on a food label also include the terms "good source of," "excellent source of," "contains," 'provides," "more," "rich in," "reduced" and "free."
Each of those words or phrases means a serving of the food has a certain amount of the nutrient it's being used to describe. For example, "low fat" means there are 3 grams or less of fat in a serving while "rich in calcium" means it contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for calcium.
As thorough as these regulations seem, copy writers have found a way around them. Some descriptive language I came across while reading the circular from a national grocery chain today made that clear. If you see any of these while shopping, be sure to check the nutrition facts on the food label to find out what's really in there.
Unregulated Nutrient Content Terms on Product Labeling
- packed with
- jam-packed with
- bursting with
- loaded with
- full of
- chock-full of
- stuffed with
- best source of
- greatest source of
- filled with
- brimming with
- abundant source of
Also worth reading: Imagine Food Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels