From the age old practice of calorie counting to the new and ever growing popular fitness trackers, people are placing more and more importance on the nutritional value of the products they are consuming. Not only important from a consumer perspective, providing accurate labelling of nutritional information for food products is required by law in most every country. The nutritional information must be presented in a clear, uniform manner, most often displayed within a Nutrition Facts Table (NFT) or Nutrition Information panel. The graphic requirements of these panels differ from country to country, but that’s a topic for another day. For a great read, check out our own Lori Hooper’s article on Upcoming Changes to Food Labelling in Canada.
Generating the nutrient data required for food product labels can be a daunting and somewhat expensive task, with accuracy both expected and potentially assessed by regulatory bodies. Accurate nutrient values are of the upmost importance to ensure both label compliance and consumer confidence. In Canada and the USA, added nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) are required to be present at 100% or more of the value declared on the label, whereas nutrients naturally occurring in the food must be present at 80% or more, with an upper limit of 120% for declared values of calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Ultimately, the source of the data used to calculate nutrient values is up to the manufacturer. While no one method is “approved”, manufacturers should choose the strategy best suited to their foods. The most reliable method, of course, is based on product composition, as determined by laboratory analysis. However, lab testing can be expensive and time consuming, with best results achieved using composite samples from multiple lots. On the opposite end of the spectrum is manual calculation, using calculations based on the nutrient data of specific ingredients within the product. Although much less costly, this is a very time-consuming and less accurate method. A more reliable and cost effective alternative within the industry is the use of an ingredient or “recipe” type database. These databases consist of nutrient data from several sources, with software used to calculate label values from the ingredients that comprise the product’s “recipe”. Nutrient losses during processing are accounted for within the software, providing an advantage over manual calculation.
One such database is the Genesis R&D Food Analysis and Labeling Software, which uses nutrient databases compiled from the latest USDA data, manufacturer’s data, and reference data, thus eliminating the need for you to request nutritional data for each ingredient.
Another point to note is the US requirement for dietary supplements to also include nutritional information, where applicable. Specifically, any of the nutrients required to be labelled for foods must also be included on dietary supplement labels when they are present in an amount that exceeds the amount that can be declared as “zero”. Although it may not occur to you that a tablet or capsule could contain any nutrients worth reporting, you will often see this requirement met for fish oil capsules or even tablet formulations that use calcium phosphate as an excipient.
NHP Consulting has expertise in food product labelling in many markets and uses Genesis R&D to help our clients save time and ensure compliance with country-specific labelling regulations. Contact us to learn more and see how we can help.