In general the dietary advice label includes:
- The energy value
- The product's nutritional content (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals)
Nutritional labelling is mandatory if the product makes nutritional or health claims. These would be indications where a given foodstuff or one of its ingredients may have specific nutritional properties.
Examples of nutritional claims:
- "Source...." e.g.: source of fibre, source of calcium.
- "-Free" e.g.: salt-free, cholesterol-free.
- "Reduced levels of…" e.g.: calorie-reduced, low fat.
ENERGY AND NUTRIENTS
In addition to product information, labels include a host of nutritional information, in particular the product’s energy values and nutrients. There are several levels of indication, meaning that all labels do not refer to the same nutrients. The values are generally shown in amounts of 100 g, 100 ml or per portion.
FOR 100 G
FOR 1 PORTION (45 G)
1770 kJ (423 kcal)
191 kcal (10%)
3.6 g (7%)
of which sugars
29.7 g (11%)
9.9 g (11%)
of which saturated fats
5.4 g (8%)
1.1 g (6%)
4.1 g (16%)
0.09 g (4%)
1.2 mg (85%)
1.3 mg (80%)
1.7 mg (85%)
0.54 mg (30%)
0.59 mg (40%)
0.77 mg (25%)
7.9 mg (55%)
3.56 mg (15%)
The energy value is expressed in kilojoules and kilocalories. It corresponds to the total energy value of the nutrients. If you try to calculate this value based on the nutrients, you need to be aware that fat contains the most calories. One gram of protein or of carbohydrates is equal to 4 kcal, while a gram of fat is equal to 9 kcal.
Keywords > 1 g of protein = 4 kcal
Keywords > 1 g of carbohydrates = 4 kcal
Key words > 1 g of fat = 9 kcal
Sometimes the label shows the percentage represented by the portion in terms of daily recommendations. In this example, a 45 g portion represents around 10% of the average recommended calorie intake for an adult.
PROTEINS, CARBOHYDRATES, FATS
As you will have noticed, the amounts provided for proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all expressed in grams. Sometimes labels differentiate between complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, such as starch, are macronutrients found in some foodstuffs such as bread, rice or pulses. Simple carbohydrates are also known as sugars and they can be found in honey and fruit, for example.
In the case of fats, labels may show how much saturated fat there is. These saturated fats are a type of fat mostly found in animal-derived food and they should be limited. They can also be found in certain vegetable-based food, such as palm and coconut oils.
Dietary fibre is made up of complex carbohydrates. The body does not digest dietary fibre and so it has a low energy value, but it plays a role in intestinal transit.
Sodium is a mineral element, as are potassium and calcium. It is vital, but eating too much sodium is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Sodium is an important component of salt.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Labels show vitamins and minerals in milligrams or micrograms. They are essential for the body to work properly but are only required in small quantities.
Nutritional labelling is mandatory if advertising a product makes any particular claims about it. Claims are indications that the product possesses special nutritional properties. They are strictly regulated and the European Union demands to have scientific proof before allowing them to be circulated. An example of a claim would be that a product is a source of calcium, which makes a contribution to bone strength or growth. Scientific proof is required if a food label is to make such claims.