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Making Food Labels Work For You

Under regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, the food label now offers more complete, useful and accurate nutrition information than ever before.

With today's food labels, consumers get:

Also nutrition information is required for some restaurant foods. FDA requires nutrition information for foods about which health or nutrient-content claims are made on restaurant menus, signs or placards. Restaurants have to provide a "reasonable basis" for making claims, although they are given some flexibility in demonstrating that reasonable basis. For example, they could rely on recipes endorsed by medical or dietary groups.

Consumers can use labels to help choose which restaurant foods are best for their needs.  For example, here is a comparison of foods from two different fast food restaurants.  McDonalds has claimed in the past to use oils with little trans fat, and Burger King has always been the 'flame-broiled' burger.  Looking at both of these labels, the choice is obvious as to which one is the better choice.  McDonald's has kept their word and offered us a Big Mac burger with no trans fat and fewer calories than the flame-broiled Whopper with cheese.  Food labels are key for helping consumers with health issues choose wisely.

All nutrients must be declared as percentages of the Daily Values which are label reference values. The amount, in grams or milligrams are still listed to the immediate right of these nutrients.

Declaring nutrients as a percentage of the Daily Values is intended to prevent misinterpretations. For example, a food with 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium could be mistaken for a high-sodium food because 140 is a relatively large number. In actuality, however, that amount represents less than 6 percent of the Daily Value for sodium, which is 2,400 mg.

On the other hand, a food with 5 g of saturated fat could be construed as being low in that nutrient. In fact, that food would provide one-fourth the total Daily Value because 20 g is the Daily Value for saturated fat.

If a 200-Calorie serving provides...     The food is considered to be...
less than 2% of the Daily Value     very low in that nutrient
less than 5% of the Daily Value     low in that nutrient
more than 20% of the Daily Value     high in that nutrient
more than 40% of the Daily Value     very high in that nutrient*

For more information on reading food labels, go to You can read more on food labeling and even get label information on different foods, not just in your grocery but fast foods also.

For more information on labeling and consumer protection, go to

*Nutritional data and images courtesy of

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