Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Food Labels


Health Claims on Food Packages

To make it easier to find foods that will fit into a heart-healthy eating plan, you can look for health claims on food packages. Food and Drug Administration-approved health claims are statements that confirm a relationship between a food or substance in a food -- such as saturated fat, whole grains, soluble fiber, or plant sterols -- and the risk of a disease, such as heart disease.

Health claims are based on significant scientific agreement, which is the highest standard of scientific evidence that shows a relationship between a food or component in the food and a health-related condition. Not all foods carry such claims, even if they meet the standards, because a manufacturer may choose not to do so. If a food carries a claim about heart disease, for example, it has to be low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. In some cases, it will also be a good source of soluble fiber. Here is an example of one type of health claim: "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease associated with many factors."

Qualified health claims are based on emerging evidence of a relationship between a food or food component and a health-related condition or reduced risk of a disease. The scientific evidence for a qualified health claim is not as strong as that of a health claim based on scientific agreement, so it needs qualifying language. Nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats from olive oil are allowed a qualified health claim for reduced risk of heart disease if they meet the required specifications for food components or nutrient levels. This is an example of a qualified health claim: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. [See nutrition information for fat content]."

Meat and poultry also have standardized health labels, but they have some differences from the labels found on packaged foods. To learn more about labels on meat and poultry, see the next page.

For more information about nutritious eating, see:

  • Eating Healthy: A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods is great for maintaining good health. Find out which food choices work best in a healthy eating plan.
  • Foods that Lower Cholesterol: Eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is the best way to reduce your cholesterol and your risk of coronary heart disease. Explore the dietary choices that can help you lower your cholesterol.
  • Weight Loss: For many people, weight loss is an important goal. Explore the different methods of losing weight, and see which can work for you.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.


More to Explore