Understanding the nutrition facts label on packaged foods


It is now mandatory in India for packaged foods to display nutrition labels — The Food Safety and Standards Regulation, 2011 issued a notification by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that all food products sold in India that are prepackaged are required to comply with the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011. Nutrition labels can help to choose various products and Ingredients keep a check on the foods that are high in fat, salt and added sugars.

Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging. These labels include information on energy in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), usually referred to as calories. Additionally, the labels include information on fat, total fat, Tran’s fat and cholesterol, carbohydrate, sugars, proteins, and salt (as sodium). In addition to the nutrition information per 100 grams, many packaged foods also include a "% Daily Value" (% DV) column on their nutrition labels. The % DV indicates how much of a particular nutrient, such as fat, saturated fat, sodium, or carbohydrates, is present in a single serving of the food, relative to the recommended daily intake for that nutrient.

The serving size mentioned on the label indicates the recommended portion of the food that the nutrition information is based on it.

Labelling requirements in India are:

  • Must be in English or Hindi or a Devnagri language
  • Should not be false, misleading, or deceptive
  • Fixed to the container
  • Should be clear, prominent, indelible and readily legible to the consumer
  • Name of the food must be mentioned along with trade name and description of the food contained.
  • In case of more than one ingredient, then a list of ingredients must be presented in descending order of their composition by weight or volume, as the case may be, at the time of its manufacture
  • “Non-vegetarian” must have a brown colour filled circle inside a square with brown outline. If a food contains only egg as non-vegetarian ingredient, then the manufacturer may provide a declaration that the product contains only egg and add the non-vegetarian symbol
  • Vegetarian food should have a symbol that consist of a green color filled circle inside a square with green

How to identify if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt?

  • Total fat

    • High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
    • Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
  • Saturated fat

    • High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
    • Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g 
  • Sugars

    • High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
    • Low: when marked as 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
  • Sodium

    • High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
    • Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

A healthy balanced meal usually means a diet that is low in fats, low in sodium, and most importantly low in carbohydrates including sugars. This helps in maintaining optimal weight and keeps obesity - related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and liver diseases at bay.

Take control of your health and make informed choices. Start understanding nutrition labels on packaged foods today!

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