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Food and Nutrition

Improving Nutrition Information on Food Labels: Health Canada's Proposed New Serving Size Guidelines to Make Comparing Foods Easier

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2014
HC Pub.: 140093

Since it was introduced, the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) has helped consumers make healthier food choices by providing information about how many calories and how much fat, sodium and other nutrients are in a specified serving of food.

All information in the NFt is based on a serving size, which is the specified amount of food that appears just below the "Nutrition Facts" heading. It is shown in both a consumer friendly household measure (for example, per number of crackers, cup) and the metric equivalent in grams (g) or millilitres (mL), as appropriate.

When serving sizes are different on similar foods, it is more difficult to compare products and make healthier food choices. This is the main reason Health Canada is proposing new serving size guidelines.

Example - Cereal

Health Canada is proposing new guidelines for the food industry to help them make serving sizes more consistent amongst similar foods. The proposed guidelines will help manufacturers more closely align their serving sizes in the NFt with regulated reference amounts reflecting what Canadians typically eat at one sitting. This will make it easier for consumers to compare foods and know how many calories and nutrients they are eating.

Guideline 1

For most foods that can be measured (cup, tsp, etc.), the serving size would be the reference amount (in millilitres or grams), shown together with the corresponding household measure. This means that similar products will state the same millilitre or gram amount.

This guideline would apply to products such as milk, cream cheese, yogurt, flour and rice.

Example - Tub of Yogurt

When comparing large tubs of yogurt right now, consumers may see different serving sizes, for example, 100 g, 125 g, or 175 g. Under the new guidelines, the serving size on all large tubs of yogurt would have to be 175 g because this is the reference amount.

Guideline 2

For most foods that come in pieces (for example, cookies, chips), the serving size would be the number of pieces closest to the reference amount, shown together with the corresponding weight (in grams). Similarly, for foods that are divided before eaten (for example, wheel of cheese, frozen pizza), the serving size would be the fraction of food closest to the reference amount, shown together with the corresponding weight (in grams). This will make the weight of the serving size of similar products either the same or very close.

This guideline would apply to products such as crackers, cookies, muffins, bagels, cakes and lasagna.

Example - Crackers

For example, under the new guidelines, the serving size on all cracker boxes would have to be as close to 20 g as possible, as this is the reference amount. The number of crackers can vary, but it is easier to compare products because the weights are very similar.

Guideline 3

For certain foods, the serving size would be more helpful if it was based on the same consumer friendly household measure, rather than on the reference amount as used in Guidelines 1 and 2.

The serving size of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, sliced bread, gum, and multi-serving meat (for example, roasts, whole chicken) would be a consistent consumer friendly household measure reflecting the way these products are typically consumed, shown together with the weight of that serving in grams.

Example - Bread

For example, the serving size for bread is shown currently as either 1 or 2 slices (along with the weight of the slice[s]). Under the new guidelines, the serving size would reflect that most people eat 2 slices of bread at a time.