We all have seen claims such as low fat, gluten free, organic, no hormones added, and etc. What does this mean when purchasing products? Let me help navigate that for you.
First, let’s define the three different types of food claims which are nutrient claims, health claims, and structure of function claims.
Nutrition claims focus on the amount of nutrients that are in a given food. For example, you might see high in Vitamin D on a food label. This means this product is a good source of Vitamin D. Now, nutrient claims cannot be larger than twice the size of the name of the product.
Health Claims focus on the how food and health related conditions are correlated. Basically it’s a statement on what the product could do for your overall health. There are 12 approved health claims that focus on lowering osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer, heart disease, and neural tube defects. For example, Honey Nut Cheerios has on their boxed “Can Help Lower Cholesterol and Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease.”
Structure of function claims are typically found on dietary supplements and drug labels. They focus on the physiological function of food. In order to have a structure of function claim companies must submit them to the FDA. However, the FDA does not evaluate the claims so there has to be a statement stating this on the product.
Now that we understand the three different types of food claims let’s look into the most popular food claims on products.
- No antibiotics or raised without antibiotics: This is only found on red meat products. Poultry, eggs, and milk products are not allowed to have antibiotics in them per the USDA. This simply means that the animals were not given antibiotics during development.
- No hormones added or administered: Again this claim is only to be found on beef products. This simply means that cows were not given hormones during development. The USDA regulates these statements.
- Organic: This statement is highly regulated. In order to have the organic label 95% of the ingredients used during growth must be organic. You are allowed 5% of non-organic products when organic products are not available. The USDA regulates the organic seal.
- Made with organic– This means that 70% of the ingredients used were organic. These products cannot have the organic seal of approval, but can have a claim “made with organic products.” If made with less than 70% of organic products you can list organic products in the ingredients list, but nowhere else can organic be used on the label.
- GMO Claims: The FDA regulates this food claim. This means that food was produced without bioengineering chemicals in the food.
- Natural: There can be no synthetic or artificial in the product. The FDA regulates these food claims.
- Good Source of: This means that the product has 10-19% of the daily recommended amount of that nutrient for a 2000 calorie diet.
- Excellent Source of: This means that the product has greater than 20% of the daily recommended amount of that nutrient for a 2000 calorie diet.
- Light or Lite: In order to have this label a food has to have 50% less fat or 1/3 less calories than the regular version.
- Low Fat: Less than or equal to 3 grams per serving of fat
- Low Saturated Fat: Less than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving
- Low Sodium: less than or equal to 140 milligrams of sodium per serving
- Very Low Sodium: Less than 35 milligrams of sodium per serving
- Low Cholesterol: less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol per serving and only when a food contains less than 2 grams saturated fat
- Low Calorie: Less than 40 calories per serving
- Fat-Free: Less than 0.5g fat per serving
- Sugar-Free: less than 0.5g sugar per serving
- Gluten Free: If it has the Gluten Free label of approval it cannot have more than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Last Minute Reminders:
Remember when food is alerted to be low in a given nutrient another nutrient is increased to add flavor, content, and can have hidden ingredients that make you eat more of the product. They can also, include ingredients that can cause GI issues.
Be careful when selecting a product with a food claim that you are not falling for a marketing tactic from the company. At the end of the day the company wants you to buy their product. This does not mean the product is healthy. For example, just because a product is organic, does not mean that you can eat the entire content in one sitting. Organic products still have calories.
Also, if you are gluten free due to an intolerance or celiac disease always check for the gluten free label of approval.