Nutrient claims describe the content of food. Understanding the information found on food labeling can help you make healthy food choices.
Claims for organic food
- For any food product, in the United States, to be labeled and sold as organic it must meet all of the requirements set out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic regulations.
- For a food item to be labeled “100 percent organic” it must be either completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
- To use the USDA organic seal, the food product must be certified organic and have 95 percent or more organic content.
Claims for livestock products
- Free-range. This label indicates that the flock was provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. The outdoor area may or may not be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material. This label is regulated by the USDA.
- Cage-free. This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.
- Natural. As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs.
- Grass-fed. Grass-fed animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life, while organic animals’ pasture diet may be supplemented with grain. Also USDA regulated, the grass-fed label does not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. Meat products may be labeled as grass-fed organic
Claims for calories
- Calorie free: less than 5 calories per serving
- Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving
- Reduced calories or fewer calories: at least 25% fewer calories per serving that regular version (greater than 40 calories per serving)
Claims for total fat
- Fat free: less than 0.5 grams per serving
- Low fat: 3 grams or less per serving
- Reduced fat or less fat: at least 25% less fat than the regular version
Claims for saturated fat
- Saturated fat free: less than 0.5 grams and less than 0.5 grams of trans fatty acids
- Low saturated fat: 1 gram or less
- Reduced or less saturated fat: at least 25% less saturated fat
Claims for sodium
- Sodium free or salt free: less than 5 milligrams per serving
- Very low sodium: 35 milligrams or less
- Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less
- Reduced sodium or less sodium: at least 25% less sodium than the regular version
Claims for cholesterol
- Cholesterol free: less than 2 milligrams per serving
- Low cholesterol: 20 milligrams or less
- Reduced cholesterol or less cholesterol: at least 25% less cholesterol than the regular version
Claims for sugar
- Sugar free: less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving
- Reduced sugar: at least 25% less sugar per serving than the regular version
Claims for fiber
- High fiber: 5 grams or more per serving
- Good source of fiber: 2.5 grams to 4.9 grams per serving
- Low fiber: 2.4 grams or less
Adapted from U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide and the National Organic Program.