Food labels include all sorts of claims about the food’s content, nutrition, the place the food comes from, and much more. Some claims are required to be on the labels, like nutrition facts. Other claims are not required, but food producers can choose to include them because it makes their product more appealing to consumers. These voluntary label claims are very common and they are the claims consumers often use to make important purchasing decisions. Some of these claims are defined by law and others are not. For those voluntary label claims that are not specifically defined, the law still prohibits them from being false and misleading to consumers. Both USDA and FDA have defined certain voluntary label claims, examples of which are provided below.
NUTRIENT CONTENT CLAIMS
Nutrient Content Claim is a claim that characterizes the level of a nutrient in the food. Nutrient content claims can make statements about the presence of a nutrient, the relative levels of a nutrient, and the absence of a nutrient.
Relative nutrient claims, like “low,” “free,” “high,” “light,” and “reduced,” are used to differentiate a product from similar products based on its nutrient content. “Free” and “low” claims, like “fat-free” or “low sodium,” imply that the marketed food has a legally defined amount of fat, calories, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar per serving.
Implied nutrient content claims are claims that describe a food or ingredient in a way that suggest that a specific nutrient is present or absent in amounts (like “high in oat bran”) or suggest the food is useful in maintaining some healthy dietary practice because a certain ingredient is present or absent.
FDA allows the use of the term “healthy” (or related terms such as “healthful,” “healthily,” “healthiness,” etc.) as an implied nutrient content claim on food labels when it is useful for creating a diet consistent with dietary recommendations. The nutrient conditions necessary for a “healthy” diet include specific criteria for nutrients to limit in a diet, such as total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. The nutrient criteria to use this claim varies for different food categories, and are different for raw fruits and vegetables than for frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, enriched cereal products, and seafood or meat products.
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