Table 2: The Low-Down on Food Label Claims

Here are the main label claims used on food packages--and what they mean:

Saturated Fat--

*Saturated fat free: Less than 1/2 gram saturated fat in a serving; levels of trans fatty acids must be not more than 1 percent of total fat.

**Low saturated fat: 1 gram saturated fat or less in a serving and 15 percent or less of calories from saturated fat. For a meal or main dish (like a frozen dinner): 1 gram saturated fat or less in 100 grams of food and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.

Cholesterol--

*Cholesterol free: Less than 2 milligrams (mg) cholesterol in a serving; saturated fat content must be 2 grams or less in a serving.

**Low cholesterol: 20 mg cholesterol or less in a serving; saturated fat content must be 2 grams or less in a serving. For a meal or main dish: 20 mg cholesterol or less in 100 grams of food, with saturated fat content less than 2 grams in 100 grams of food.

Fat--

*Fat free: Less than 1/2 gram fat in a serving.

**Low fat: 3 grams total fat or less in a serving. For a meal or main dish: 3 grams total fat or less in 100 grams of food and not more than 30 percent calories from fat.

Percent fat free--A food with this claim must also meet the low fat claim.

Calories--

*Calorie free: Less than 5 calories in a serving.

**Low calorie: 40 calories or less in a serving.

Sodium--

*Sodium free: Less than 5 mg sodium in a serving.

**Low sodium: 140 mg sodium or less in a serving. For a meal or main dish: 140 mg sodium or less in 100 grams of food.

Very low sodium: 35 mg sodium or less in a serving.

*Words that mean the same thing as free: "no," "zero," "without," "trivial source of," "negligible source of," and "dietarily insignificant source of."

**Words that mean the same thing as low: "contains a small amount of" and "low source of."

Light--A product has been changed to have half the fat or one-third fewer calories than the regular product; or the sodium in a low calorie, low fat food has been cut by 50 percent; or a meal or main dish is low fat or low calorie.

"Light" also may be used to describe things like the color or texture of a food, as long as the label explains this: for example, "light brown sugar" or "light and fluffy."

Reduced/Less/Lower/Fewer--A food (like a lower-fat hot dog or a lower-sodium cracker) has at least 25 percent less of something like calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium than the regular food or a similar food to which it is compared.

Lean and Extra Lean--Two terms--"lean" and "extra lean"--are used to describe the fat content of meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish.

Lean--Less than 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol in a serving.

Extra lean--Less than 5 grams fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 mg cholesterol in a serving.