What does it all mean (and why is the writing so darn small)?

Sauce of Truth

Food product manufacturers are required by law to provide accurate nutritional information on packaging.

Nutritional LabelFood packaging standards are set and regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which is an independent statutory agency operating within the Australian Government Health portfolio.

Nutrition information panels display the total quantity of each macronutrient (i.e. Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate), with a breakdown of sub nutrients such as Saturated and Trans Fat (Fat), and Sugar (Carb). NOTE: the Sugar value includes both natural and added or ‘free’ sugars (4 grams = 1 teaspoon).

The amount of Sodium (a component of salt) and Dietary Fibre is listed, along with any food additives or nutrients/substances claimed in product promotion (e.g. ‘calcium-enriched’).

The nutrition panel follows a set format with the quantities of each component per serve (portion size) and per 100g/100mL (for comparison with similar products). The ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity, and the use/storage instructions and country of origin are shown.

Self-Serving Size

Chocolate MilkThe Serving Size is determined by the food product manufacturer.

The stated Serve is often difficult to visualize without weighing it, and it may not reflect the portion you actually serve yourself.

The Serving Size may also vary between similar products.

Energy Formula

Have you ever wondered how the Energy value (kJ/Cal) of a food product is calculated?

All three macronutrients contribute to the potential energy in the product. Each macronutrient has a different ‘density’ i.e. kilojoules per gram – Protein (17kJ), Fat (37kJ), Carbohydrate (16kJ). NOTE: Manufacturers often use 17kJ per gram for Carbohydrate.

Multiply the total grams of each macronutrient by its density, and then add the three values together.

If Dietary Fibre is listed, that will contribute another 8kJ per gram to the Energy total.

% Daily Intake

The ‘Daily Intake’ percentage still appears on some packaging. It is based on an adult Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) of 8700kJ.

This information is not useful because each of us has a different EER depending on our age, gender, height, weight, personal activity level (PAL) and health status. Adult EER can vary from 8000kJ to 15,000kJ or more for elite sports people.

The Fine Print

Fine Print Label CopyNutrition information has to compete for space with branding, product/contact information and a myriad other statutory food packaging requirements.

The minimum text size allowed by FSANZ Legibility Requirements for nutrition and health warning information is 3mm.

If the product is classified as ‘small’, the text can be reduced to 1.5mm, which is very very small!

Nutrition Information Labels are for the benefit of consumers. Teach your children how to interpret them so they can make healthy, independent food choices for the rest of their lives.

Download the ‘Food Label Tracker’ activity to help your children learn how to read nutrition labels.

For more information about food labels, check out FOOD LABELS – What Do They Mean?