How to Read Food Labels

Food labels are filled with important information that can help consumers become savvy about the foods they eat. Nutrient and health claims are prominently displayed on the front of a packaged food while the back and sides contain the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients list. Other key labeling requirements include the statement of identity and net contents, the name and address of the manufacturer, and any allergens present in the food. In addition, the USDA requires that a food label state whether the product is organic or has been produced using antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, genetically modified organisms, or added hormones.

Reading the Nutrition Facts panel is one of the best things that you can do to start eating healthier. It helps you identify nutrient-dense foods that can support your diet as well as those that contain high amounts of nutrients that you may want to limit (like sodium, sugar, or fat). It’s important to note that the Nutrition Facts panel shows the amount of a nutrient in a single serving of food and the % Daily Value, which is the recommended dietary allowance for that nutrient.

The Ingredients list provides an easy way to check for any critical ingredients that you need to avoid. For example, if you have an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, or wheat, it’s essential to check the ingredients of all your food products. Food producers are also required to identify any of the eight major food allergens that can cause a life-threatening reaction on the label.

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