Food Labelling: Nutrition Information

Checking the nutrition label is a good way to compare products, make healthier choices and eat a balanced a diet.

In this fact sheet: 


This fact sheet aims to help you understand and use the nutrition information presented on the food label.

Nutrition label information will appear on the food label, alongside other information including:

  1. Name of the Food
  2. Weight of the food
  3. Ingredients, listed in order of quantity used
  4. Nutrition Information

A nutrition declaration is required on all packaging larger than 10cm² (with specific exemptions for some foods). This is usually shown on the back or side of pack as a table and can also be repeated to appear on the front of pack (e.g Traffic Lights).

Front of pack nutrition labels

To help you make a quick decision, this label clearly shows the nutrients that are important to keep an eye on for health. It is not mandatory for products to display this label.

If shown, this label will contain the amount of energy in calories (kcal) or kilojoules (KJ), per serving and per 100g. It can also display the amount of fat, saturates (saturated fat), sugars and salt in a serving.

The numbers on the label show you how many calories and how much fat, saturates, sugars and salt a serving of the food or drink contains, both in number of grams (g) and as a share (%) of your daily allowance (RI).

The average woman needs 2,000 calories (kcal) per day, the average man 2,500 and children fewer than 2,000 depending on their age. The RI on a front of pack label is based on the RI for an average woman.

How to use the front of pack nutrition label

  • For a healthier choice choose products with more greens and fewer reds.
  • If a food contains a red label try to limit the number of times you eat this food.
  • Comparing products in this way can help you select healthier choices.
  • Use the percentages on the nutrition label to track whether you’re under or over your daily allowance.
  • Some front of pack labels are not colour coded, so you will need to look at the percentage of RI in a portion to compare foods or drink.

Nutrition information on the back or side of the pack

Nutrition information on the back or side of a food packet is mandatory. As shown below, the  highlighted elements must be included on all packaging.

Key:

  1. nutrients per 100grams
  2. nutrients per serving or portion
  3. number of portions/serving per pack (below the nutrition table)

Voluntary information can also be given on other nutrients including; unsaturated fats, fibre, and vitamins and minerals. If a claim is made about a nutrient, the amount in the product must be given in the nutrition label i.e. the amount of calcium for a “source of calcium” claim.

How to use the back of pack nutrition label

  • Use the nutrition information per 100g to make comparisons between foods.
  • Labels may refer to a serving size that is different to the portion you consume, i.e. the serving size may refer to one biscuit, but if you are eating two you will need to double it.
  • Use the percentages on the nutrition label to track whether you’re under or over your daily allowance.

Nutrition and health claims

Two types of claims can appear on labels.

  • Nutrition claims such as “low fat” or “high fibre”
  • Health claims such as “Vitamin D is needed for normal bone health”.

Both types of claim may only be made when the product meets specific conditions for use, given in
food labelling legislation. This ensures that any claim made on a label can be substantiated, is clear and not misleading for consumers.

Any claim will only refer to one nutrient or aspect of the product so it is important to read the nutrition label information to get a picture of what is also provided by that product.

Further information

Further information on food labelling can be found on BDA fact sheets including Fat, Carbohydrates,
Sugars, and Food Allergy.

Information Sources

Downloade this fact sheet as a printable PDF

*Some imagery and content within this fact sheet has been kindly supplied to the BDA by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) from its Nutrition Labelling Guides


This Food Factsheet is a public service of The British Dietetic Association (BDA) intended for information only.

It is not a substitute for proper medical diagnosis or dietary advice given by a dietitian. If you need to see a dietitian, visit your GP for a referral or find a private dietitian. To check your dietitian is registered check the HCPC Register.

Written by Sally Moore, Ruth Breese and Lisa Baker of behalf of the Public Health Specialist Group.

© BDA August 2018. Review date August 2021.