What’s in a label? What you need to know about the Nutrition Information Panel

The nutrition label provides detailed information about a food's nutrient content, FSSAI issues guidelines and regulations to be followed, read to know more

August 24, 2022

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A food label indicates any written or printed information on the food pack, which describes the product and is intended for the promotion of its sales. Nutrition Labelling is a part of the Food Label consisting of a standardized statement or list of nutrients of that food. Nutrition labelling refers to information about the nutritional content of a food product. The Nutrition Information Panel is required by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on most packaged foods and beverages.

The nutrition label provides detailed information about a food's nutrient content, such as the number of carbohydrates, fat, protein, sugar and sodium. The sole purpose of nutrition labelling is to keep the consumer informed of the nutritional properties of the food which enables them to make the right food choices. It also informs the consumer of the presence of certain nutrients that are in high/low quantity and thus chooses between products of the same category.

Regulations on Nutrition Labelling

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which is the apex food governing body in India issues guidelines and regulations to be followed by all food manufacturers. As per FSSAI, all packaged foods are required to have a compulsory food label along with a nutrition label (with a few exemptions).

In 2020 FSSAI announced changes to the label aimed at helping consumers make more informed choices. Food manufacturers are expected to adopt the changes by 2022. Many have already made the switch. 

Components of the Nutrition Information Panel

The following components form the Nutrition Information Panel

  • Serving Size Information

  • Nutrients

  • % Daily Value

1. Serving Size Information

What is a Serving Size?

One of the important components of a food label is the Serving Size of the product that is mentioned on the Nutrition Information Panel, which is now mandated as per the new regulations by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Serving or serve size’ is an amount of food that is customarily consumed by people in one sitting. It is generally an amount mentioned as per household measurements such as cup, tablespoon, piece, slice, or jar, followed by the metric amount, i.e., the number of grams (g). The serving size section usually also mentions the number of servings per packet or container.  

The mention of the serving size enables consumers to easily compare similar foods and understand how much of the food they should consume at one time.

E.g., One packet contains 1000 g of product but the serving size indicated is 1 cup i.e.227g so accordingly the packet contains approximately 4 servings. 

Why should Serving Size be declared on Food Labels?

  • The nutrition Value of food products can be compared directly if serving sizes are similar. Two or more products of a similar nature can be compared for their nutritional value and health claims and empower consumers to choose the healthier option.

  • Serving sizes helps consumers understand portion control so that they are aware of how much of the food should be eaten at one time. This controls the intake of nutrients like saturated fat, added sugar, trans fat, sodium, etc. But please note, that all serving sizes are not equivalent to recommended portion sizes. 

How should Serving Size be declared as per new regulations?

The average quantity of food in a serving must be declared in the nutrition information panel. The serving size must be declared in grams (g) if the food is solid or semi-solid and in millilitres (mL) if the food is a liquid.

  • It should also include the number of servings in the package.

  • Nutritional information per serving can be provided as well but not instead of per 100g/ml.

  • Per Portion or Per Consumption amount of product is decided by the food business operator.

Also Read - Declaration Of Nutrient Values - 100g/Ml Or Serving Size?

2. Nutrient Information

Nutrition labels are displayed as a panel or grid on the back or side of the packaging. It includes information on energy (kcal), fat, saturated fat), carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt. It also provides additional information on certain nutrients, such as fibre and nutrients on which claims are made.

List of Mandatory Nutrients on the Nutrition Information Panel

As per FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), the following nutrient information should be declared on the label as per 100g/ml or as per a single consumption pack of the product. Along with this, its per serving percentage contribution to RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) should be mentioned based on a 2000 kcal diet. 

  • Energy (kcal)

  • Protein (g)

  • Carbohydrate (g), Total Sugars (g), Added Sugars (g)

  • Total Fat (g), Saturated Fat (g) and Trans Fat (g)

  • Sodium (mg)

  • Nutrients for which claims are made on the label.

3. % Daily Value What is it?

The % Daily Value is simply a guide to know how much of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of a specific nutrient is supplied per serving of a particular food and beverage. The Recommended Dietary Allowance signifies the Recommended Daily Intake of a particular nutrient that should be consumed daily to lead a sustainable healthy life.

For example: If the RDA for calcium is 1000 mg and a packaged food or beverage has 100 mg in one serving, the per cent Daily Value for Calcium in per serving of that product would be 10%.  That means if you consume one serving of that food product you would be getting 10% of your need of calcium in a day and would have to consume other foods to get the other 90%.

The General Guideline to know if the food product is high or low in nutrients is as follows.

  • 5% Daily Value or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low.

  • 20% Daily Value or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high.

How does it help the consumers?

It gives you an idea to make informed choices by comparing the % Daily Value between various nutrients for that particular food product. So, if you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars) choose a product with 5% or less DV for these nutrients.

If you want to consume more of healthy nutrients (such as Dietary Fibre, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium) choose food products with 20% or more DV for these specific nutrients).

% Daily Values also allows you to Understand Nutrient claims made for food products.

Declaration of % Daily Value

FSSAI has mandated the declaration of per serve percentage (%) contribution to Recommended Dietary Allowance calculated on the basis of –

Nutrients

RDA

Energy

2000 kcal

Added Sugar

50 g

Total Fat

67 g

Saturated Fat

22 g

Trans Fat

2 g

Sodium

2000 mg (5 g salt)

Is nutrition analysis of packaged food products necessary?

The legislation allows for different methods of calculating the nutrient values. It does not necessarily require laboratory analysis and it may be possible for a food business operator to calculate the values themselves depending on the type of product.

Declared values must be based on:

  • manufacturer's analysis of the food

  • calculation from the known or actual average values of the ingredients used

  • calculation from generally established and accepted data

1. Calculation of Energy -

The amount of energy to be listed should be calculated by using the following conversion factors:

  • Carbohydrates – 4 kcal/g

  • Polyols except Erythritol - 2 kcal/g

  • Erythritol - 0kcal/g

  • Protein - 4 kcal/g

  • Fat - 9 kcal/g

  • Alcohol (Ethanol) - 7 kcal/g

  • Organic acid - 3 kcal/g

  • Dietary fibre - 2 kcal/g

2. Calculation of Protein

The amount of protein to be listed should be calculated using the formula:

Protein = Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen x 6.25 (Unless a different factor scientifically justified, may be used) Provided that for calculating protein content in milk a conversion factor of 6.38 needs to be used.

Foods that are exempted from having a Nutrition Table

As per FSSAI (Labelling & Display) Regulations, 2020, the following foods are exempted from mandatory nutritional labelling. These exemptions pertain only to nutrition labelling information, and have no effect on all other mandatory information (i.e., name of food, net quantity of contents, ingredient statement, name and address of the manufacturer, etc.) - 

(i) Unprocessed products that comprise a single ingredient;

(ii) Processed products which the only processing they have been subjected to is maturing and that comprise a single ingredient;

(iii) Waters intended for human consumption, including those where the only added ingredients are carbon dioxide;

(iv) A herb, a spice or mixtures thereof/Curry Powder except for Sprinkler masala (masalas meant for direct consumption);

(v) Salt and salt substitutes;

(vi) Tabletop sweeteners;

(vii) Coffee extracts and chicory extracts, whole or milled coffee beans and whole or milled decaffeinated coffee beans, coffee, decaffeinated coffee, soluble coffee powder, coffee chicory mixture;

(viii) Herbal and fruit infusions, tea, decaffeinated tea, instant or soluble tea or tea extract, decaffeinated instant or soluble tea or tea extract, which do not contain other added ingredients than flavourings which do not modify the nutritional value of the tea;

(ix) Fermented vinegar and substitutes for vinegar, including those where the only added ingredients are flavourings;

(x) Flavourings, Food additives, Processing aids, Food enzymes, Gelatine, Yeast;

(xi) Chewing gums;

(xii) Alcoholic Beverages.

(xiii) Foods for Special Dietary Uses (FSDU), Foods for Special Medical Purposes(FSMP), subject to the compliance of requirements specified in the Food Safety and Standards (Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Use, Food for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Food and Novel Food) Regulations, 2016.

Edible oils and fats belong to a single ingredient product category and hence is exempted from a nutrition label except that it has to mention the values of saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 and omega-6. 

Also, all those products falling in the above list are required to have a nutrition label if a claim is made on them. However, apart from these foods, all other packaged food need to compulsorily have a nutrition label on them. 

Nutrition Labelling for other foods

FSSAI regulations also specify labelling rules for foods meant for non-retail sales. It states that all non-retail containers should compulsorily provide nutritional information in a document format if not on the container, apart from other general labelling requirements. The regulations also state that all Food Service establishments having a central license or more than 10 outlets need to compulsorily mention the calorific value along with serving size against the food name displayed on the menu cards. Apart from the nutritional values they also have to mention allergen information and veg or non-veg logo. The above regulations are also applicable to E-commerce websites and they too should obtain all nutritional information and display it on their website. 

Get Regulatory Complaint Food Labels in less than 5 Minutes! References

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Food Labelling. Retrieved from Food labelling (fao.org)

U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food Labelling and Nutrition. Retrieved from Food Labelling & Nutrition | FDA

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Product Standards. Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020.

Serving Size on the New Nutrition Facts Label, 2020. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Saayma Rizvi (BSc in Food Science and Nutrition)

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