Labels provide all the information you might want to know about the foods and drinks you purchase: levels of calories and nutrients; proportion of your recommended intake of nutrients in a portion; allergens; health aspects and much more!
On the back of packs the energy value (in kJ and kcal), and the amount in grams of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt must be shown per 100g and, optionally, per portion. Labels may also show the amounts of monounsaturates, polyunsaturates, starch, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Levels of vitamins and minerals can be provided where they are present in significant amounts (greater than 15% of the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) per 100g for food products) showing the % NRV too.
Manufacturers can choose to repeat some information on the front of packs, showing either just energy, or energy, plus fat, saturates, sugars and salt in grams, with specific requirements whether it is per 100g and/or per portion.
A simple description of the portion size must be given together with the % of the Reference Intake for each nutrient and the energy value. Colour coding using red, amber or green can be applied voluntarily according to published criteria.
Nutrition claims, such as low fat, high fibre, source of protein, can be used on packs if the specific criteria for each of these claims is met. Here are some examples of claims and their criteria:
|Low in fat||<3g/100g|
|High in fibre||>6g/100g|
|Source of protein||>12% energy from protein|
|Source of iron||>15% NRV of iron per 100g|
Health claims describe the functions of nutrients and are regulated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who evaluate all claims before they can be used (3). Examples include:
|Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones||The claim may be used only for food which is at least a source of calcium as referred to in the claim SOURCE OF calcium as listed in the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.|
|Oat grain fibre contributes to an increase in faecal bulk||The claim may be used only for food which is high in that fibre as referred to in the claim HIGH FIBRE.|
|Wheat bran fibre contributes to an acceleration of intestinal transit||
The claim may be used only for food which is high in that fibre. In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the claimed effect is obtained with a daily intake of at least 10 g of wheat bran fibre.
 European Union (2011) European Food Information to Consumers Regulation No 1169/2011 available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32011R1169&from=en
 Department of Health (2016) ‘Technical Guidance on Nutrition Labelling’ available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564048/Nutrition_Technical_Guidance.pdf
 European Commission ‘Nutrition and Health Claims’ available at http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/claims_en