Food Labels

This page discusses food labels found on food packaging, and how you can use these labels to make healthy food choices.



Nutritional Information on Front Packaging 

Food labels provide the information you need to help make healthy and informed food choices.

To help you make a quick decision, most of the big supermarkets and food manufacturers have added a label to the front of the pack. This label will give you a quick guide to the amount of energy (kJ and kcal), sugar, fat, saturates and salt in a serving or portion of the food. However, it is important to remember that the manufacturer’s idea of a portion may differ from yours.  



Colour coded nutritional information, as shown in the image above, tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturates, sugars and salt.

Red = High (this food will be high in fat, saturates, salt or sugar, with these being the foods we are trying to cut down on, but fine to have occasionally).

Amber = Medium (neither high nor low, so foods with all or mostly amber is fine most of the time).

Green = Low (the more green on the label the healthier the choice, so foods with all or mostly green are a healthy choice).

Many foods will have a mixture of colours on them. To make the healthiest choice, go for more ambers and greens and fewer reds. The shopping card can help to guide you.


Nutritional Information on Back of Packaging 

Nutrition labels are often displayed as a panel or grid on the back of packaging. Information listed must include the following nutrients that are important to health, these include: energy, in calories (kcal) and joules (kJ), fat, saturates, carbohydrates, protein and salt.

For example, the chart below shows the nutrition label on a loaf of white bread.



Reference Intakes 

As both labels demonstrate, you will see reference intakes referred to on food labels. These are guidelines based on the approximate amount of nutrients and energy you need for a healthy, balanced approach to eating each day.

Reference intakes are not intended as targets, as energy and nutrient requirements are different for all people. But they give a useful indication of how much energy the average person needs and how a nutrient fits into your daily diet.

Unless the label says otherwise, RI values are based on an average-sized woman doing an average amount of physical activity.

As part of a healthy balanced approach to daily eating, an adult's reference intakes ("RIs") for a day are:

Health Claims on Labels: What They Mean 

Health claims on labels can have different meaning on different products, which can be confusing. The list below provides information that can help you understand common label health claims. 


No Added Sugar / Unsweetened

No sugar has been added to the product. They may contain a lot of natural sugar naturally occurring sugars e.g. fructose (fruit sugar) in orange juice; lactose (milk sugar), such products should say ‘contains naturally occurring sugars’.

Low Sugar

Products contain less than 5g of sugar per 100g, or 2.5g of sugar per 100ml.

Reduced Sugars

Products must contain 30% less sugar than the standard equivalent product. This does not mean the product is always low in sugar.

Sugar Free

Products must contain no more than 0.5g of sugar per 100g or 100mls.


High Fat: Total Fat

Product contains more than 17.5g of fat per 100g or 8.75g per 100mls.

High Fat: Saturated:

Product contains more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g or 2.5g per 100mls.

Low Fat: Total Fat

Product contains no more than 3g fat per 100g or 1.5g per 100mls.

Low Fat: Saturated Fat

Product contains no more than 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g or 0.75g per 100mls.

Reduced Fat

The product must contain at least 30% less fat than the standard equivalent product.

Fat Free

The product must contain no more than 0.5g fat per 100g or 100mls.

Less Than 5 % Fat / 95 % Fat Free

Product contains less than 5g of fat per 100g or 100mls. This does not mean the product is always low in fat.


High in Salt

Product contains more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (0.6g sodium).

Low in Sat

Product contains less than 0.3g of salt per 100g (0.1g sodium).


Source of Fibre

Product contains at least 3g of fibre per 100g.

High in Fibre

Product contains at least 6g of fibre per 100g. 

Additional Information:

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