Nutrition information panels provide information on the average amount of energy (in kilojoules or both in kilojoules and kilocalories), protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and sodium (a component of salt) in the food, as well as any other nutrients about which a nutrition claim is made. For example, if a food had a ‘good source of fibre’ claim then the amount of fibre in the food must be shown in the nutrition information panel.
The nutrition information panel must be presented in a standard format which shows the average amount per serve and per 100g (or 100mL if liquid) of the food.
There are a few foods that don’t require a nutrition information panel, for example: a herb or spice, mineral water, tea and coffee (because they have no significant nutritional value) foods sold unpackaged foods made and packaged at the point of sale, e.g. bread made and sold in a local bakery. However, if a nutrition claim is made about any of these foods (for example, ‘good source of calcium’, ‘low fat’) a nutrition information panel must be provided. Foods in small packages, i.e. packages with a surface area of less than 100 cm squared (about the size of a larger chewing gum packet) are not required to have a nutrition information panel.
The serving size listed in the nutrition information panel is determined by the food business. This explains why it sometimes varies from one product to the next. The ‘per serve’ information is useful in estimating how much of a nutrient you are eating. For example, if you are watching how much fat you are eating, you can use the ‘per serve’ amount to help calculate your daily total fat intake from packaged foods.
Quantity per 100g
The ‘quantity per 100g’ (or 100ml if liquid) information is handy to compare similar products with each other. The figures in the ‘quantity per 100g’ column are the same as percentages. For example, if 20 grams of fat is listed in the ‘per 100g’ column this means that the product contains 20% fat.
The energy value is the total amount of kilojoules from protein, fat, carbohydrate, dietary fibre and alcohol that is released when food is used by the body.
Protein is essential for good health and is particularly important for growth and development in children. Generally, people in developed countries eat enough protein to meet their requirements. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese are animal sources of protein. Vegetable sources of protein include lentils, dried peas and beans, nuts and cereals.
Fat is listed in the nutrition information panel as total fat (which is the total of the saturated fats, trans fat, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats in the food). A separate entry must also be provided for the amount of saturated fat in the food.
If a nutrition claim is made about cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats or omega -3, omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acids, then the nutrition information panel must also include the amount of trans fat, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats and also omega fatty acids if claimed.
Carbohydrates can be found in bread, cereals, rice, pasta, milk, vegetables and fruit. Carbohydrate in the nutrition information panel includes starches and sugars. Starches are found in high amounts in foods such as white, wholemeal and wholegrain varieties of cereal, breads, rice and pasta, together with root vegetables and legumes.
Sugars are a type of carbohydrate and are included as part of the carbohydrates in the nutrition information panel as well as being listed separately. The amount of sugars in the nutrition information panel will include naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit, as well as added sugar. Note that products with ‘no added sugar’ nutrition claims may contain high levels of natural sugars.
The nutrition information panel does not need to include fibre unless a nutrition claim is made on the label about fibre, sugar or carbohydrate, for example ‘high in fibre’, ‘low in sugar’.
Sodium is the component of salt that affects health and high levels have been linked with high blood pressure and stroke, which is why it is included in the nutrition information panel