Labeling Terms

Ingredient Statement

The ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance. Descending order of predominance means that the ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight. That is, the highest-weight ingredient in the food is listed first, with the lowest-weight ingredient listed last.

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Nutrition Facts Panel, (NFP)

The Nutrition Facts Panel presents the nutritional data for the food according to the nutrition labeling standard maintained by the FDA. This panel lists data on the nutrients that the FDA has determined are most critical in the American diet.

NFP Example

Nutrition Facts Panel example

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Principal Display Panel (PDP)/ Front of the Package

The principal display panel, or PDP, is that portion of the package label that is most likely to be seen by the consumer at the time of purchase. This is most often the front of the package and where a product manufacturer provides information about the product. Common claims made on the front of the package include “Natural,” “Whole Grain,” “Low-Fat” and “Sugar-Free”.

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Sugar Nutrient Content Claims

Nutrient content claims describe the relative level of a nutrient or dietary substance in the product, using terms such as free, high and low, or they compare the level of a nutrient in a food to that of another food, using terms such as more, reduced, and lite.

Free “Sugar Free”: Less than 0.5 g sugars per reference amount and per labeled serving (or for meals and main dishes, less than 0.5 g per labeled serving)

No ingredient that is a sugar or generally understood to contain sugars except as noted below(*)

Disclose calorie profile (e.g., “Low Calorie”)

Low Not Defined. No basis for recommended intake
Reduced/Less At least 25% less sugars per reference amount than an appropriate reference food

May not use this claim on dietary supplements of vitamins and minerals

Comments “No Added Sugars” and “Without Added Sugars” are allowed if no sugar or sugar containing ingredient is added during processing. State if food is not “Low” or “Reduced Calorie”

The terms “Unsweetened” and “No Added Sweeteners” remain as factual statements

Claims about reducing dental caries are implied health claims

Does not include sugar alcohols

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Total Carbohydrate

Total carbohydrate content is calculated by subtracting the sum of the crude protein, total fat, moisture and ash from the total weight of the food. Total carbohydrate values include the weight of all sugars, sugar alcohols, fiber and any other carbohydrate-based ingredient like maltodextrins.

FDA defines total carbohydrate in the NFP as the number of grams, expressed to the nearest gram, of total carbohydrate in a serving. If a serving contains less than 1 gram, the statement “Contains less than 1 gram” or “less than 1 gram” may be used. If a serving contains less than 0.5 gram, the total carbohydrate content may be expressed as zero.

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FDA specifically defines the term sugar whenever it is listed in an ingredient statement. FDA restricts use of the term sugar to sucrose which is obtained from sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugar (sucrose) is included in the term “sugars” listed in the NFP.

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FDA defines the “sugars” category in the NFP as the total amount of naturally present and recipe sugars. FDA states that the sugars amount includes sugars that are present naturally in the food such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit, sucrose in fruits and vegetables, as well as sugars added to the food during processing, such as sugar / sucrose, corn syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates and dextrose.”

Sugars content in a serving is expressed to the nearest gram in the NFP. If a serving contains more than 0.5 gram but less than 1 gram, the statement “Contains less then 1 gram” or “less than 1 gram” may be used instead. If a serving contains less than 0.5 gram of sugars, the weight can be expressed as zero.

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Sugar Alcohols/Polyol Sweeteners

A sugar alcohol (also known generically as a polyol) is a hydrogenated form of carbohydrate. They are commonly used to replace sucrose in foods. As a group, sugar alcohols are not as sweet as, and are less caloric than, sucrose. Sugar alcohols are incompletely absorbed from the small intestine which results in a smaller rise in blood glucose than other sugars, including sucrose. Incomplete digestion of polyol sweeteners means that bloating and diarrhea can occur if they are over-consumed.

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Daily Value

The daily value (DV) is a general guide that permits consumers to understand if a serving is high or low in a particular nutrient. A general rule is a DV of 5% or less means that a nutrient is low, while a DV of 20% or more means that a nutrient is high. The asterisk is a reminder that the DV values listed in the NFP are based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories.

It is important to note that no DV is listed for sugars. This is due to the fact that the body of science shows that no upper level (see next section) of intake is appropriate for sugars.

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Upper Level (UL)

While the term upper level (UL) does not appear in the NFP, the term is used to indicate the highest level of daily intake where a nutrient is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost every individual in the general population. Note: In 2002, after a thorough review of the scientific literature, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Science Institute of Medicine concluded that there was no adverse health effects related to sugar intake. Thus, no UL was established for sugar intake. This conclusion reaffirmed the same decision made by panels of experts after earlier reviews of the scientific literature.

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