Food Label Terms

Food Label Terms

Is the food all it is claimed to be?

The purpose of the label on the products you buy, is to both attract your attention and to give you information that is required by the government as to the nutritional value of the food inside the package. 

Generally, we use this information to decide whether we will purchase the product and how much of our hard-earned dollars we are willing to spend on it.

It is a balancing act for the food companies to keep their cost points low and at the same time make the product nutritious and appealing enough for you to choose it over all of the other choices available.  Fortunately, the government requires that in order to use certain terms, the product must meet a set standard.

Here is a list of the some of the most common food label terms and what is required by the U.S. government in order to make that claim:

“High Fiber”More than 5 g of fiber per serving
“Light” “Lite” 50% of the fat and 1/3 fewer calories of regular version of product
“Organic” 95% of ingredients meet USDA organic standards regarding use of pesticides and other chemicals in production
“Good source of” Provides at least 10% of Daily Value
“Low fat"
3 grams or less of fat per serving
Less than .5 g fat per serving
“Trans-fat free” Less than .5 g trans-fat per serving
“Cholesterol free” Less than 2 mg cholesterol per serving, plus 2 g or less of saturated fat and trans-fat combined per
“Low Cholesterol” 20 mg or less cholesterol per serving, plus 2 g or less of saturated fat and trans-fat combined per serving.
“Reduced calorie” At least 25% fewer calories than regular product
“Low calorie” Provides 40 calories or less per serving
“Lean” Provides less than 10 g of fat, plus 4.5 or less of saturated fat and trans-fat combined per serving, and 95 mg of cholesterol
“Rich in”
"Excellent Source of”
Provides 20% or more of nutrient
“Sodium free” “Salt free” Less than 5 mg per serving
“Low sodium” 140 mg or less per serving


Recently, the U.S. Agriculture Department has refined the definition of what qualifies as organic livestock. According to the new rules, the animals must spend at least one third of the year grazing on pasture, and that at least 30 percent of their feed must come from grazing. This is an improvement on former rules that merely required that the animals have access to pasture.

Packaged foods that have passed the certification by the USDA for organic content, will display a green and white seal on their label as an assurance to customers that they have met the government requirement for organic foods.

Make sure you notice the difference between “100% organic” foods and ones with some organic ingredients.

There are some guidelines governing what qualifies a food to be labeled "organic."

-In the case of plant products, such as fruits, vegetables and grains:  Organic means that they have been grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, or other synthetic chemicals.

-In the case of animal foods, such as meat, eggs and dairy products:  Organic designation is based on the grazing conditions of the livestock, the absence of antibiotics and hormones, and the use of organic feed.

-As mentioned above, in order to be labeled organic, the foods may not be genetically modified, irradiated or fertilized with sewer sludge.

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