Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Food Advertising/Labeling
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


Consumers have become more health conscious than ever. Companies have responded to this growing trend by offering "Light", "Low Fat" or "Low Cholesterol" type foods. These claims, however, do not always guarantee the foods are "good for you."

The Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration has adopted food labeling guidelines to help consumers understand the ingredients contained within these foods. The labels are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This number was chosen because of its "user-friendly appeal" and can be easily adjusted to meet an individual consumer's needs. The labels also assist consumers in choosing foods to meet the Surgeon General's recommendation that no more than 30% of one's daily calories comes from fat.

The following are commonly used terms and definitions:

"FAT FREE"
This requires the food have less than .5 grams of fat per serving. "LOW-FAT" allows 3 grams or less per serving. "REDUCED FAT" requires the food to have 25 percent less fat than the referenced food. For example, "Reduced Fat Cookies" must have 25 percent less fat than regular cookies.

"LIGHT"
This requires the food to contain either one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the referenced food. For example, "Light Popcorn" must have 1/3 the calories or 1/2 the fat content of "Regular Popcorn".

"CALORIES"
To be labeled as "Calorie Free," the product must contain less than 5 calories per serving. "LOW CALORIE" requires 40 or fewer calories per serving. "REDUCED CALORIE" indicates that the product has at least 25 percent fewer calories than the reference food. With these tips in mind, read the food labels carefully and make an informed decision.