*[Image Goes Here]* Nutrition labeling is a practical tool that can help Canadians make better food choices. The nutrition information on food labels helps consumers compare products more easily, determine the nutritional value of foods and better manage special diets. Recently, Health Canada has developed a new system for providing nutrition information on food labels.
On packaged food, nutrition information is found in the Nutrition Facts table; Nutrition Claims; and Ingredient list.
The Nutrition Facts table is mandatory on most prepackaged foods. Unlike old food labels, it is now easy to find, easy to read and included on more foods. The Nutrition Facts table will always provide information about Calories and 13 nutrients that are important to the health of Canadians (see example table). The best part of the new table is the mandatory addition of trans-fat, the nasty fat known to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Nutrition Claims are a quick and easy way to find information about a food. Example claims are: “source of dietary fibre” or “low in fat”. Nutrition Claims also translate diet-health relationships into simple messages such as “A healthy diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruit may help reduce the risk of some types of cancer.” Until now diet-health claims were not allowed on packaging in Canada. Manufacturers can choose to put a health claim on their product only if it meets government-regulated criteria.
Ingredient lists tell us where nutrients come from & their importance in the food. Ingredients are listed by weight from most to least. For eg, if looking for a higher fibre cracker one may decide to choose a package of wheat crackers because whole wheat is the first ingredient. Ingredient lists are also an invaluable source of information for people with allergies or who follow special diets.
Serving sizes are provided on the Nutrition Facts table so consumers can compare the portion they eat with the amount on the label to “personalize” the nutrient information.
For example, “John” is looking at the Nutrition Fact table for Honey Oat Cereal to see how many calories he is getting when he eats 450 mL of cereal. The serving size on the Nutrition Fact table is for 250 mL (30g) which provides 120 Calories. If John eats 450 mL he is getting 216 Calories.
It is important to note that the serving sizes on Nutrition Fact tables are not the same as those on Canada’s Food Guide. Nutrition Fact tables contain serving sizes based on amounts Canadians usually eat at one sitting. The serving sizes on Canada’s Food Guide are a reference to remind people that eating smaller portions is recommended.
The % Daily Value (% DV) makes it easy to see if there is a little or a lot of a nutrient without having to do any math. For example a food that has a % DV of 5% or less for fat, sodium or cholesterol would be low in these three nutrients and a good choice. A food that has a % DV of 15% or more for calcium, vitamin A or fibre would be considered a good source of these nutrients.
The new Nutrition Facts table on packaged food will be seen as early as this year although food manufacturers have the next 3 years to put the new tables on their products.
The improved nutrition labeling is a great tool to assist Canadians with healthy eating. Follow Canada’s Food Guide and use nutrition labeling to make healthy food choices.
Information adapted from the Health Canada Nutrition Labeling Toolkit for Educators. For more information visit www.healthcanada.ca/nutritionlabelling.
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