Chapter One: Doc, what information is on a food label?

All packaged foods are required by national and international laws to have a list of all ingredients on the packaging. This information is contained on a nutritional information panel and is listed in descending order of quantity.

A nutritional information panel shows the energy content and the main nutrients in one serve and in 100 grams (usually written as 100 g) of the product. Energy content is shown in either kilojoules or calories or both. It also shows the number of servings in one package and the serving size in grams. It is important to point out here that the serving size as stated on the label is not necessarily the same as an individual would choose. An example of a nutritional information panel is shown below.

Figure 1.0. An example of a nutritional information panel*.

Nutrition Information

Servings per package: 2

Serving size: 125g

Nutrient Per serve Per 100g
Energy 560 kJ

134 cal

447 kJ

107 cal

Protein 14.1 g 11.3 g

– total

– saturated


6.8 g

4.4 g


5.4 g

3.5 g


– total

– sugars


3.3 g

4.4 g


2.6 g

3.5 g

Sodium 524 mg 419 mg
Calcium 75 mg (9% RDI) 60 mg

*This table is adapted from Philips et al, Medicine Today, January 2007, Vol. 8, No.1, pp 61.

Nutrients that must be included are protein, fat (total and saturated), carbohydrate (total and sugars) and sodium (salt). It is also mandatory for manufacturers to include other nutrients that are used in marketing claims (E.g. dietary fibre). Sometimes the percentage daily intake of nutrients is included. The daily intake is based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ. This information is optional and is up to the manufacturer to provide the information on the food label.

The ‘per 100 g’ column relates to the nutritional content in 100 grams. Use this column to compare different products. The ‘per serve’ relates to nutritional content in one serve. As mentioned the manufacturer’s serving size may not be the same as the consumers’. There is also variation between brands concerning the serving size. It is therefore best to use the ‘per 100 g’ column when comparing the nutritional content of different products or when comparing brands.

There are some foods that are not required to provide nutritional information. These include fresh fruit, vegetables, foods that are not sold in packages, foods that are packed in small packages (less than 100 cm2), single ingredient foods and foods that are made and packaged on the premises from which it is sold (E.g. at fast food outlets and kai bars).






About rodney itaki

I am a medical doctor from Papua New Guinea. My posts focuses on current and emerging health issues in PNG.
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