Reduced fat, low fat, % fat free – What is the difference?

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Have you ever found yourself looking at the packaging of food, reading that it is ‘low in this and a good source of that’ but not really knowing what on earth it all means?  To save taking any longer in the supermarket, you just buy it and hope that it is in fact good for you.  We are going to see a lot more claims on packaging over the coming years.  This is as a new claims standard was released earlier in the year that allows companies to make nutrient, health and related claims as long as they satisfy the requirements of the standard.  Don’t worry though I’ve summarised sections of the standard (Standard 1.2.7 – Nutrition, Health and Related Claims) for you so that when you next see claims on food labels you’ll know what it means.

For this post we will just look at nutrition content claims.  I’ve selected those that I think are currently most commonly seen on foods.  Here are some examples to put the information contained in the table into context:

  • ‘Reduced/lite’ products must have 25% less e.g  fat/sugar/salt than the standard product in that brand e.g. Lite milk has 25% less fat than the standard full cream milk in that brand
  • ‘Low sugar’ products must have less than 5 grams of fat per 100 grams e.g. Weet-bix states that it is ‘low in sugar’ as it only has 3.3 grams of sugar per 100 grams
  • Products that state it is a ‘good source of dietary fibre’ must have at least 4 grams of fibre per serve e.g. Carman’s Traditional Australian Oats  state that it is ‘high in fibre’ as it contains 4.3 grams of fibre per serve
  • ‘Gluten free’ products must not contain detectable gluten e.g. Freedom Foods Muesli is ‘gluten free’ as gluten is ‘Not Detected’
  • Products that state it is ‘99% fat free’ must in fact have less than 1 gram of fat per 100 grams e.g. Barambah Organics Low Fat Natural Yoghurt states that it is ‘99% fat free’ as it contains 0.2 grams of fat per 100 grams
Claim What it means
Reduced or light/lite The food contains at least 25% less of that nutrient than in the same quantity of a reference food.
Increased The food contains at least 25% more of that nutrient that in the same quantity of a reference food.
Low Energy The average energy content of the food is no more than(a) 80 kJ per 100 mL for liquid food; or(b) 170 kJ per 100 g for solid food.
Fat The food contains no more fat than(a) 1.5 g per 100 mL for liquid food; or(b) 3 g per 100 g for solid food.
Gluten The food contains no more than 20 mg gluten per 100 g of the food.
Lactose The food contains no more than 2 g of lactose per 100 g of the food.
Salt The food contains no more sodium than(a) 120 mg per 100 mL for liquid food; or(b) 120 mg per 100 g for solid food.
Saturated fat The food contains no more saturated fatty acids than(a) 0.75 g per 100 mL for liquid food; or(b) 1.5 g per 100 g for solid food.
Sugar The food contains no more sugars than(a) 2.5 g per 100 mL for liquid food; or(b) 5 g per 100 g for solid food.
Good Source Dietary fibre A serving of the food contains at least 4 g of dietary fibre.
Protein The food contains at least 10 g of protein per serving.
Vitamin or mineral (not including potassium or sodium) A serving of the food contains no less than 25% of the RDI or ESADDI for that vitamin or mineral.
Excellent Source Dietary fibre A serving of the food contains at least 7 g of dietary fibre.
Diet (a) The average energy content of the food is no more than 80 kJ per 100 mL for liquid food or 170 kJ per 100 g for solid food; or(b) The food contains at least 40% less energy than in the same quantity of reference food.
Free Gluten The food must not contain(a) detectable gluten; or(b) oats or their products; or(c) cereals containing gluten that have been malted, or their products.
Lactose The food contains no detectable lactose.
% Free Fat The food meets the conditions for a nutrition content claim about low fat.
Sugar The food meets the conditions for a nutrition content claim about low sugar.
Low proportion Saturated fat The food contains as a proportion of the total fatty acid content, no more than 28% saturated fatty acids.

Source: Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Some definitions:

Reference food: Is a food that is of the same type as the food for which a claim has been made, for example, ‘normal’ milk (full cream) compared to lite milk.

RDI: Recommended Dietary Intake

ESADDI: Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake

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