Food Labels – Truth be Told. As consumers, we are all increasingly interested to learn more about what goes into our food and what nutrients we will gain from them. So, it’s always a good idea to take a close look at the Ingredients and Nutrition Facts table of the food we buy. However, many consumers focus too much energy on comparing % Daily Value across food labels while ignoring the Serving Size. I am inspired to write this blog to share my lessons learned about Food Labels as a Consumer and Food Marketer.
While the Nutrition Facts table allows us to understand what % of Daily Value (% DV) requirement of any nutrient we are getting from a product, it is very important to also review the serving size of the product as % DV are calculated on the serving size, which often varies across brands. Here is an example of how a consumer can be misinformed when comparing sodium content across two food labels while ignoring the serving size.
Does Product A have 1/2 the % DV of sodium than Product B?
No, Product A actually has more sodium than Product B!
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a range of serving sizes for food products and some times the higher range value can be double the lower range value! This makes it very important to compare the serving size even when you are comparing foods in the same food category. Please find below one of the tables from the CFIA website that lists acceptable serving size for Dips and Sauces:
Given this guideline, a brand of salsa can use 50ml as its serving size (row 123) while another brand can use 100ml. Even if both brands have the same amount of salt in a 300 mL salsa jar, the brand with the 50ml serving size will appear better when comparing the % DV of sodium as % DV calculations are based on the serving size and not the package size.
I hope you will keep this information in mind the next time you are comparing food labels side by side. Food is our fuel, choose wisely.