Everything that’s on your food label is and should be regulated. Companies should be responsible for the things they tell you are in their product. If a product says “light” or even its misspelled cooler cousin “lite”, it sends you a certain message.
But be honest do you even know what that message is? Is it the same for all products? Is it always referring to calories? Even though something may be “lighter” than its counterpart, how much lighter is light!? Yes, its hard to know what’s what, but continue reading & you’ll hopefully have it all figured out.
So I’m not going to lie, even I was confused while reading the rules on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines. The first thing you have to understand is that “light” doesn’t always refer to energy or fat content of the product. You are also allowed to use the word light in reference to:
- The Amount of added salt; though the food must contain at least 50% less added sodium than a similar reference food
- A maple syrup product when used in accordance to the Maple Products Regulations
- Rum, it is also known as white or silver rum
- “Light salted fish“
- Light beer, which refers to a reduced alcohol content (so not technically calories – though a light beer does have less calories than regular beer)
- A sensory characteristic of a food (e.g., “light tasting”, “lite coloured”). In these cases, the sensory characteristic must always accompany the claim.
Now let’s get back to using the term “light” as a nutrient content claim. In order for a product to be “light” it must also meet either the “reduced in energy” claim or the “reduced in fat” claim. This basically means that in order to understand the “light” claim, you have to understand the reduced in energy/fat claim, which let me tell you is very annoying. In case the word “energy” is confusing, you can replace it right now with the word calories. They both ultimately mean the same thing. Mmmmmm, calories.
The order of energy & fat claims are follows:
NONE – Free of Energy/Calorie Free/No Fat < Low in Energy/Few Calories/Low Source of Fat < Reduced in Energy/Fewer Calories/Less Fat < Lower in Energy/Less Calories/Lower in Fat < Source of Energy/Provides Calories < More Energy/Higher Calories LOTS
*Obviously there are a TON more claims I am missing, but these are the basic categories of them. You can read the other HERE
Back to the reason why we are here, the word “light”, in order for a word to have that claim it must follow the following rules:
1. The food is modified so that it provides at least 25% less energy/fat
- (a) per reference amount of the food or a similar reference food
- (b) per 100 g compared to a 100 g of a similar reference food, if the food is a prepackaged meal.
2. The similar reference food does not meet the conditions set out for “low in energy”
So there you have it kids, a little food for thought & insight into the claims that you read every time you look at food packaging. Although it is reassuring to know that someone is monitoring these things. I really don’t think it matters much if it still confuses nearly everyone who reads them. What food packaging claims have confused you in the past? What food packing claim still confuses you? Let me know & I’ll try to help you figure it all out!