Site Map

Food labeling

Nutrition labeling; Nutrition facts

Food labels contain a great deal of information on most packaged foods. Food labels are called "Nutrition Facts." The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did a major update of the Nutrition Facts label in 2016. Most manufacturers have been following these new requirements since 2021.


Food Label Guide for Candy
Food label guide for whole wheat bread
Read food labels


The United States government requires food labels on most packaged foods. The label offers complete, useful, and accurate nutrition information. The government encourages food manufacturers to improve the quality of their products to help people make healthier food choices. The consistent format of the label helps you directly compare the nutritional content of various foods.


The serving size on the label is based on an average amount of food that people typically eat. Similar food products have similar serving sizes to make comparing products easier.

Keep in mind that the serving size on the label does not always equal a healthy serving size. It reflects the amount that people typically eat. It is not a recommendation for how much of that food to eat.

Most of the time, the serving size on a label does not match the serving size on the diabetic exchange list. For packages that contain more than one serving, sometimes the label will include information based on serving size and total package size.


The total number of calories per serving is indicated in large type. This helps consumers clearly see the number of calories per serving. The list of nutrients includes:

These nutrients are important to our health. Their amounts are shown in grams (g) or milligrams (mg) per serving to the right of the nutrient.


Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium are the only micronutrients required to be on the food label. Food companies can voluntarily list other vitamins and minerals in the food.


Many nutrients include a percent daily value (%DV).

Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You can use these numbers as a general guide, but bear in mind that your calorie needs may be higher or lower depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. Note that protein, trans fats, and total sugars do not have percent daily values listed.


A nutrient content claim is a word or phrase on a food package that makes a comment about the level of a particular nutrient in the food. The claim will mean the same for every product. The following are some approved nutrient claims.

Calorie terms:

Sugar terms:

Fat terms:

Cholesterol terms:

Sodium terms:

Other nutrient content claims:


A health claim is a food label message that describes the relationship between a food or a food component (such as fat, calcium, or fiber) and a disease or health-related condition. The FDA is in charge of approving and regulating these claims.

The government has authorized health claims for these 7 diet and health relationships that are backed by extensive scientific evidence:

  1. Calcium, vitamin D, and osteoporosis
  2. Dietary fat and cancer
  3. Fiber in fruits, vegetables, and grain products and cancer
  4. Fiber in fruits, vegetables, and grain products and coronary heart disease
  5. Fruits and vegetables and cancer
  6. Saturated fat and cholesterol and coronary heart disease
  7. Sodium and high blood pressure (hypertension)

An example of a valid health claim you may see on a high-fiber cereal food label would be: "Many factors affect cancer risk; eating a diet low in fat and high in fiber may lower the risk of this disease."

For further information on specific health claims, refer to the information on diet and health.


Food manufacturers are required to list ingredients in descending order by weight (from the most to the least). People with food sensitivities or allergies can obtain useful information from the ingredient list on the label.

The ingredient list will include, when appropriate:

Most manufacturers offer a toll-free number to answer questions about specific food products and their ingredients.


Many foods are not required to have information on them. They are exempt from food labeling. These include:

Stores may voluntarily list nutrients for many raw foods. They may also display the nutrition information for the 20 most commonly eaten raw fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Nutrition labeling for single-ingredient raw products, such as ground beef and chicken breasts, is also voluntary.

Related Information

Protein in diet
Vitamin C


Electronic Code of Federal Regulations website. Part 101 Food Labeling. Updated January 30, 2024. Accessed February 5, 2024.

US Food and Drug Administration website. Food labeling & nutrition. Updated December 13, 2023. Accessed January 26, 2024.

US Food and Drug Administration website. The new and improved nutrition facts label - key changes. Updated January, 2018. Accessed January 19, 2024.


Review Date: 11/7/2023  

Reviewed By: Stefania Manetti, RD/N, CDCES, RYT200, My Vita Sana LLC - Nourish and heal through food, San Jose, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 02/05/2024.

ADAM Quality Logo
Health Content Provider

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complied with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information from 1995 to 2022, after which HON (Health On the Net, a not-for-profit organization that promoted transparent and reliable health information online) was discontinued.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2024 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.