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What Does "Fat-Free" Really Mean?

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Many food manufacturers place claims on their food labels indicating their products are “fat-free,” a “good source of,” or just plain “healthy.” While the goal is to help consumers make faster and wiser food choices, many consumers are now asking what these claims really mean.

To help consumers – along with food manufacturers and retailers – better understand these terms, we asked Jill Carte, category manager of food safety at DayMark Safety Systems, to explain what the following nutritional claims mean…. and that might not be what you think.

Fat Free

When a product is labeled “fat free,” it does not necessarily mean it is free of fat. For a product to be “fat free,” it must contain less than 0.5g of fat per serving. So if we eat one cookie that is “fat-free,” we’re fine. But if we eat three of those same cookies, not so fine.

Good Source

When the terms “good source,” “contains,” or “provides,” are placed on a food label, it means the food item has ten percent to 19 percent of the recommended Daily Value (DV) of a nutrient.


This is one of the most confusing terms found on a food label, so confusing that the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is now in the process of redefining exactly what “healthy” really means.

Rich In

Terms such as “rich in,” “high,” or “excellent source of,” are used to describe food items that have 20 percent or more of the recommended daily value of protein, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, or potassium.

As Packaged/As Prepared

These terms are often confused and do not mean the same thing. “As packaged” refers to the state of the product as it is marketed for purchase. “As prepared,” on the other hand, refers to the product after it has been purchased and made ready for consumption, for instance, once the ingredients are added per instructions on the label.

“Because the FDA is expected to update their labeling requirements next year, the meanings of some of these terms may change,” says Carte. “Fortunately, online recipe analysis technologies are available to help [food] manufacturers and retailers stay up-to-date and in compliance if changes are made.”

For more information on food labels and ways to help consumers better understand food labels, contact a DayMark Safety Systems representative.

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