In much the same way that a Table of Contents explains what is inside a book, so too does the Nutrition Facts Food Label tell what the food we eat contains.

It is important therefore that consumers know how to use this information. The Nutrition Facts Panel of the Food Label is printed on the outside of packaged food and can usually be located quite easily.

With today’s food labels, consumers are able to: • Obtain nutrition information about almost every food item on a grocery shelf.
• Compare the nutrient values in similar products.
• Quickly find information they need to make healthy food choices.
• See how a food fits into an overall daily diet.
• Determine the amount per serving of nutrients especially those of major health concern.

The chart below shows a typical example of a Nutritional Facts Panel of the Food Label. The panel is divided into four main sections as indicated by heavy solid horizontal lines. Section one gives facts on the serving size; section two gives information on calories and calories from fat.

Section three gives details of the nutrients that are most important to the health of most consumers, most of whom worry about getting too much of certain items (fat for example) rather than too few vitamins and minerals as in the past. Section four gives an indication of reference values to help consumers learn good diet basics.

They can be adjusted depending on a person’s caloric needs. There are several forms of the same label printed for different products depending on the size and shape of the container but the basic mandatory information are the same. Some product manufacturers give additional information on the labels if they feel it could substantiate a health claim. Health claims will be addressed in Part II of the Series on Food Labels.

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