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Health Claims on Food Labels

Topic Overview

Food makers can make health claims about certain nutrients, such as calcium, fibre, and fat, that are found naturally in foods. The health claims must be balanced and based on current, reliable scientific studies and must be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Health claims may be statements like "This food is a good source of calcium. A healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D may reduce the risk of osteoporosis," or "Development of cancer depends on many factors. A healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruit may reduce the risk of some types of cancers."

But just because a food label has a health claim does not mean that the food is healthy for you. For example, a food that is labelled as "a good source of calcium" may still be high in fat, salt, or sugar.

Terms you can trust

Terms on labels are legally defined for food companies. Phrases such as "low-fat," "low-sodium," "light" or "lite," "free" (as in "fat-free"), and "organic" are now standardized for all foods. If a food uses one of these terms, you can trust that it meets the criteria for that term.

Per serving:

  • Calorie-free: Less than 5 calories
  • Low-calorie: Less than 40 calories
  • Fat-free: Less than ½ gram of fat
  • Lean: Meat, poultry, or seafood that has not been ground and contains 10% or less fat
  • Extra lean: Meat, poultry, or seafood that has not been ground and contains 7.5% or less fat
  • Light: 25% less calories
  • Low-fat: 3 grams or less of fat
  • Low sodium: Less than 140 milligrams of sodium

Credits

Current as of: December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

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