Reading food labels is very important to help you get the best buys for your money when purchasing food at the supermarket. The information on food labels can help you comparison shop, select better choices and identify what is in the product.
As a wise shopper, you want to know exactly what the various food terms on food labels really mean. Even though the Food and Drug Administration regulates certain phrases on food labels, many food companies use selected words, which can confuse the consumer. Some shoppers end up spending more and getting very little nutritional value. Following is a glossary of terms found on food labels that will help you make healthier and lower food cost selections.
Cholesterol Free means the cholesterol content is less than 2 milligrams per serving.
Low Cholesterol describes products with less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
Cholesterol Reduced or Reduced in Cholesterol is permitted when the cholesterol content has been reduced at least 75% percent from the original product. Manufacturers must state what the original cholesterol content was, along with that of the cholesterol-reduced version. For example, cholesterol reduced from 120 milligrams to 30 milligrams per serving. Foods that have less cholesterol, but not 75% percent less, such language as less cholesterol or lowered cholesterol would be allowed. Again, the cholesterol content of both the original and the reduced version would have to be stated.
Low Fat food cannot have more than 3 grams of fat per serving.
Low in Saturated Fat foods cannot have more than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving.
Light means the product must contain fifty percent less fat than the original food.
Sodium Free products have less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Reduced Sodium means the processing has reduced the usual level of sodium by 75% percent.
Unsalted, Salt Free, No Salt Added is a food processed without salt. Yet, there still can be large amounts of sodium in the food, i.e. MSG aka Mono Sodium Glutamate.
Extra Lean is less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol. Actual amount must be on label.
Lean is less than 10 grams of fat, less than 4 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg. of cholesterol. Amount of fat must be on label.
Low Calories has at least 1/3 less calories than the original version.
Sugar Free products have no sucrose (table sugar/granulated sugar) but may have other forms of sugar, i.e. Sorbitol
Natural has no processing or very little processing, no additives, preservatives or artificial coloring.
Processed foods contain additives, preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.
Enriched foods must contain the following nutrients: The B Vitamins: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin and the mineral, Iron.
Fortified means a nutrient not present naturally has been added to a food. It can also mean increasing the level of a nutrient found naturally in a food. For example, if a certain food has a low amount of Vitamin C, the manufacturer may add more C to increase its nutritive value.
Irradiation is a method used to control certain microorganisms in some meats and other products. The label must say, Treated with Radiation or Treated by Irradiation. The irradiation logo must be on the label.
Organic foods usually mean not treated with chemical pesticides, herbicides or preservatives. Technically organic means animal or plant foods.
Information required by law on all food labels are name of food, weight, list of ingredients, name and address of distributor or manufacturer, handling and storage instructions for perishable foods. In New York State, the law requires the last sale date printed on milk and eggs cartons.