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  • Haley Schlechter, RD, LDN

The Claim Guide

Ever been confused looking at a pack of cookies that says “sugar free” or “fat free”? These nutrition claims are on pretty much everything but what exactly are they referring to?! Well, most of those terms are actually regulated by the FDA or USDA and have to go through a lot of different steps to get approval for using them.

The problem is when you take out an element that makes the product delicious, like fat from peanut butter, you have to add something else to improve flavor, like sugar. So remember: if something sounds too good to be true, like sugar free Oreos, it probably is. Continue reading for a full list of what the claims really mean and if there is any catch to the claim. At the end I included a few commonly used unregulated terms as well.

What some of the most common claims seen on packages really means:

· Low calorie — Less than 40 calories per serving.

· Reduced 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.

· Good source of — Provides at least 10% of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.

· Calorie free — Less than 5 calories per serving.

· Low fat — 3g of fat or less per serving

· Fat free/sugar free — Less than 1⁄2 gram of fat or sugar per serving. As a general rule: if somethings is low or fat free they likely compensate with more sugar and vise versa!

· Low sodium — Less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

· High in — Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving.

· High fiber — 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

· Healthy — Foods fat content must be predominately mono/polyunsaturated fats and have at least 10% daily value of vitamin D and potassium. No requirements for amount of sugar or type of ingredients.

Claims on Meat & Poultry:

· Organic/ 100% organic Must contain only organically produced ingredients and processing

· Made with Organic Ingredients Processed products that contain 70% organic ingredients

· Free Range or Free Roaming Producers must demonstrate to Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. As long as they have access it counts.

· Kosher used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under rabbinical supervision.

· No Hormones — Hormones are normally NOT allowed in raising hogs or poultry EVER regardless of label. In BEEF, no hormones administered may be approved for used on the label if there is documentation from producer showing no hormones were used when raising animals.

· No Antibiotics (red meet & poultry) may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics. Animals get sick just like humans though and sometimes require antibiotics, just saying.

Some Common Terms that are currently unregulated/ misguiding:

· Natural — no concrete definition exist currently but FDA considers natural products to have no artificial or synthetic ingredients added. Do not pertain to pesticide use, nutrition adequacy or pasteurization processes. Basically its still pretty unregulated in use.

· Lightly Sweetened— Sounds nice but not regulated

· Made with real fruit— as long as there is any quantity of any fruit, even if its not the same as pictured on package they can claim this.

Moral of Story: This is not an extensive list of all possible claims companies can make but it is an excellent resource to learn from and keep handy!! Remember as with all things, especially food, If something sounds too good to be true, like fat free ice cream, it probably is. Use your label reading skills from last week to locate the catch!

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