Here's an explanation of exactly what the rule says:
"nalyzed value vs. what is printed on the label? If so, what is the specific regulation? (April 2011)
Yes, FDA regulations published at 21CFR101.9(g) specify two classes of nutrients; the allowable variance is different for each. Regardless of the class, the analyzed value is derived from a composite sample of twelve consumer units, with one unit coming from each of twelve different randomly chosen shipper cases.
Class I nutrients are nutrients added to fabricated foods for the purpose of fortification, such as vitamins, minerals, protein and dietary fiber. For this class, the analyzed value must be at least equal to the label value.
Class II nutrients are naturally-occurring nutrients. For this class, the analyzed value for the "beneficial nutrients" (vitamin, mineral, protein, total carbohydrate, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat or potassium) must be at least 80% of the label value and the analyzed value for the "nutrients to limit" (calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium) must not be greater than 120% of the label value. These allowable variances are commonly referred to as the "80/120 rule."
So it's just the natural nutrients that can vary, and the variance really is only 20%. That's not unreasonable at all, because it's almost impossible to be sure you're closer. Especially for something that's measured in grams and present in a relatively small amount, I don't know how you would expect a company to control it any more closely. If you're a little company making artisan cheese, and this month you bought cream from a neighbor who milks Jersey cows instead of the other dairy down the road that has Holsteins, it would be incredibly likely that your cheese might have 6 grams of saturated fat instead of 5. Should a small business REALLY have to test every single batch and make a new label if their ingredients change? If the law were that strict, there couldn't be any small food companies. Only the mega-corporations could afford to stay in business.
Folks, this is actually a rare case of business and government compromising and coming up with a reasonable solution that lets the businesses function without seriously impacting the consumer.
4/26/13 5:26 P
I agree. That 40% span is crazy. They should have to do better than that. Just another example " It's ALL about the Benjamins baby"and the companies have the money. Money Rules
I did know about this. But, like some other posters have stated, it doesn't bother me. And, mainly for the same reasons. That's why we are encouraged to eat fruits and veggies in season. Not only is it better for the environment (it's better if I buy strawberries when they are in season from the county next to mine, than when they are not and they get shipped from who knows where) but the freggies will also be at peak of nutrition. Same concept goes for processed foods, it can't be guaranteed that each and every batch of every ingredient has the exact same nutrition. So of course, some variance needs to be allowed. Now, my though is, how much variance should be acceptable? How much variance is too much, and how exact can we expect these companies to be? Also, think of it this way: my tablespoon of peanut butter may not equal your tablespoon of peanut butter. Granted, the processing companies are using machines for these things, and are much more precise than you or I could get at home, but there is still going to be a margin for error, as well.
Fitness Minutes: (11,796)
5,855 4/26/13 10:28 A
Typical government tomfoolery. You cant convince me that +/- 30 pct. is a reasonable tolerance level. that is, in reality, a 50 pct. swing. I will take fresh, unlabeled foods.
"Even more incentive for me to get most of my nutrition from food that doesn't have labels... i.e., whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, lean meats/fish."
I agree that it's always better to go with whole foods. Absolutely, and 100%. However, that won't resolve *this* particular problem. Natural foods vary, quite a lot. That's why they allow the variance on the labels. Apples picked this month won't have exactly the same sugar, fiber, and vitamin content as the ones that are harvested next month. Lentils grown in Oregon will have very different minerals from ones imported from France. And the nutrition of animal foods like milk or eggs varies *hugely* depending on time of year and the animal's diet-- if you live in the north, cows are eating hay in the winter and grass in the summer, and if you live in the desert Southwest it's the opposite, and the milk is going to be quite different in different seasons. Whether you cook with those ingredients or Pillsbury cooks with them, the nutritional content of the finished product is going to be different from what you (or they) calculated based on the average.
And while 20% might sound like a lot, it's really not. If the English muffin that usually has 5 grams of fiber comes out closer to 4 this batch, that's your 20%. One gram of difference. Your own cooking isn't always within a few grams of what you're entering into your tracker.
It might be possible to use sophisticated testing methods as another poster suggested, BUT that would require huge expenses for the testing AND the company would have to change its labeling/packaging all the time. For some foods, packaging is more expensive than the contents, so you're talking about more than doubling the price of some products. Would we rather live with the knowledge that sometimes the cottage cheese has 120 calories instead of 130, or pay $6 for a quart of it? Since the vast majority of people never even look at the label, just imagine how much screaming there would be if a headline came out saying, "New FDA labeling laws to cause 5% rise in cost of food!"
OMG! Nanny state! Government interference! They're out to starve us all! The President is a Nazi Communist!
In the current atmosphere, the FDA barely has enough inspectors to make sure food companies aren't substituting sawdust for flour or slipping meth into the Red Bull. Making them re-label if this week's butter has 4 grams of fat instead of 5 just isn't going to happen.
Fitness Minutes: (4,175)
4/26/13 8:35 A
Even more incentive for me to get most of my nutrition from food that doesn't have labels... i.e., whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, lean meats/fish.
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
4/26/13 8:29 A
I agree everything has a margin of error but seriously...20%? That's a bit absurd given the sophistication of testing equipment today. I bet that 20% rule was written 30 years ago and has not kept up with the changes in technology since then.
I did not know that but like someone previously said here, these are estimates and we should not get too hung up on numbers -- be they on the personal scale or on the food scale.
4/26/13 2:15 A
I learned something new from your post so thank you!
And while I understand that there's bound to be variance in measurements for any number of reasons, I find it somewhat disconcerting that the range spans 40% ..... that seems significant to me.
Fitness Minutes: (349,487)
16,314 4/25/13 11:43 P
I had heard of that.
Fitness Minutes: (57,011)
4,787 4/25/13 9:58 P
I am in healthcare ... and have done some research. There is an accepted "margin of error" in all measurements, including such as blood work, etc. You draw 2 specimens from the same person at the same time and send them to the lab, you won't necessarily get the exact same results.
That's why it frustrates me that when experienced SP members don't do more to teach people that all these numbers we track are JUST ESTIMATES. They are not precise measurements. It's OK that your bathroom scale gives a slightly different reading when you move it from one spot on the floor to another ... that your measurement of that food was not perfect ... that you can't tell exactly how many calories your burned today ...etc. Just get as close as you can reasonably get. That's good enough. We can't be perfect with out measurements and our counting.
The precice number is not important. It's overall patterns of behavior -- and their results -- that matter most.
Thank you, COURTPHX for bringing up the topic. Maybe it will help educate some people.
WOW.... this means a 20% leeway plus or minus of the ingredient. Yikes. I also don't like the fact that they can claim zero% trans-fat per serving if it contains less than a certain amount. and 'whole' food products should label anything that isn't part of the original product. ('slime' in ground meat for example) and they should label GMOs....Don't get me started www.centerforfoodsafety.org/ge-map/
yep. foods have to be within 20% of what is on the label. foods in nature have a natural variance so it only make sense to extend that straight to the labels.
4/25/13 5:45 P
I just go on the assumption that sometimes what I eat might be a little over what I actually thought - and sometimes it will be a little under. And it will all "even out" in the end.
However, this does indicate a good reason why a person might wish to do more home-prep from basic ingredients, rather than rely on processed/packaged foods.
Fitness Minutes: (4,795)
44 4/25/13 5:37 P
Did you know the FDA has an allowable variance on food labeling accuracy? It's commonly called the 80/120 Rule and it says that the actual values of things like fat, carbs, etc have to be at least 80% of the listed value and no more than 120% of the listed value.
How do you feel about this? Does knowing this affect how you will plan meals?
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