What’s in a claim? Common food claims explained


Recently, I’ve received a few reader emails regarding food claims, so I’m re-posting a quickie from a while back. There are hundreds (or more) of food claims, all designed to call out a product’s promise to its consumer. Many claims pertain to consumer health or nutritional benefits, while other claims indicate enhanced product function. Food manufacturers are required to substantiate their product’s food claims. However, the requirements for substantiation vary depending on the claim made.

Below is a list of common claims you’ve likely seen on the grocery shelves including: “Light,” “Reduced Fat,” and “Cholesterol-Free.” The requirements food manufacturers must follow to use the below claims are fairly straightforward. However, newer claims like “gluten-free,” “all-natural,” “GMO-free,” (and many other emerging claims) are associated with more complicated regulations/substantiation. These require a lengthier explanation, and a longer post. 🙂 Stay tuned for more info on those.

  • Light/Lite: If more than half of the product’s calories come from fat, then you can assume the calories on the “light” version have been reduced by 50% per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) .  These rules are slightly different for products with less than 50% calories from fat, or when “light” refers to sodium. Of course, a “light” claim can also refer to color or texture.
  • Reduced Fat: Product contains at least 25% less fat per RACC than the reference food (the “original” full-fat version). For meals and entrées, food must be 25% less fat on a per 100g basis.
  • Cholesterol Free: Product contains less than 2mg of cholesterol per RACC and per serving.
  • Sugar Free: Product contains 0.5g (or less) of sugar per RACC and per serving.

For more detail on labeling nutrition claims, visit the FDA or Code of Federal Regulations websites:

FDA: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006828.htm

CFR: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2001/aprqtr/21cfr101.56.htm

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