ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 15: Product and Supplement Labels and Claims 1

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Know the terms relating to food and supplement labels and packages.
    • Have an understanding of the key terms related to food and dietary supplement claims.
    • List most of the claims made on food and supplement packages.
    • Be able to discuss the types of foods and supplements and their claims regulated in the US.
    • Know the organic agriculture of the united states.


    The term “wholesome” is a popular way that people describe foods that should be fresh, healthy, and packed with nutrients.

    Many marketing companies use different terms when it comes to loosely describing the products that they sell, and this makes them seem healthier, but this is not always the case.

    The ideal foods we consume would be those that are unprocessed fruits, veggies, whole grains, and cereals. 

    All Foods Are Not Equal

    The nutrient content for whole foods will vary quite a bit based on things like geographic location and even the time of year or the soil.

    Inconsistencies have been one of the biggest flaws in nutrition approaches taken at the institutional level.

    The Rise Of Dietary Supplements

    The first use of nutrients for supplemental purposes likely started in some medical form. They have long been employed to get patients back to health.

    These can be anything from tablets to intravenous solutions that deliver even quicker.

    Dietary supplements are also simply called other names like supplement, food supplements, and nutrition supplements, and these have exploded in recent years in their use. 

    The FDA, or the Food and Drug Administration, is used to regulate the dietary supplement products and the ingredients in them to make sure that they are labeled correctly and branded as such.

    But the companies actually making the products will be responsible for ensuring safety evaluations, labeling, and purity standards prior to marketing.

    Oftentimes, we see people thinking of supplements more as drugs than food, and this is partly due to their packaging and common consumption and the origins of supplements as a whole. 

    Food Vs. Supplements

    People who encourage the use of supplements as part of a balanced diet can provide powders and pills over the use of food.

    Since people are often not able to perfectly digest all of the nutrients from things like fruits and whatnot, supplementation with a basic and more easily digestible form of them.

    Critics of supplements often state the problems as being from the inconsistent regulation of extra ingredients and fillers; also other things like the quality of the ingredients and inaccurate claims have led to some critiquing. 

    Food and Supplement Labeling

    Most common household products have a list of their ingredients and some also may have calorie and nutrients in each serving on the package.

    Nutrition coaches should always start by learning about the various nutrients within each food, and specifically the foods high in specific nutrients. 

    With the FDA nutrition labeling regulations, there are specific ingredients and information about nutrition that must be placed on the food packages.

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    Ingredient lists will show the ingredients in order of the amount in a descending format.

    Understanding Food and Supplement Labels

    The FDA has a lot of regulations for every aspect of ingredients, packing, manufacturing, labeling, testing, and all the processes relating to both food and supplements under the legal authority.

    Requirements for Supplement Manufacturers

    It is often assumed that dietary supplements have no regulation by the FDA, but in reality, there are many requirements set by the FDA and various other governing bodies. 

    Unless someone is excluded, the supplement manufacturers need to maintain a license for food facilities with the FDA and are also subject to being audited without any notice at all.

    Testing requirements are also set and can include testing for purity, ingredient identity, and dosage claims. 

    Nutrition Facts Label

    The nutrition facts label is designed to give information to help consumers make informed choices regarding the food that they purchase and consume. 

    Nutrition labels should be easy to read and have been updated to make that job even easier than before. Certain nutrients are bolded so that they can be more easily and quickly found on the label.

    Added sugars are a main thing that are made sure to have the amount in grams and the percent daily value, due to their added importance in avoiding for the average American. 

    The serving sizes and labeling requirements are put in by law and must be based on the amount of food and beverage that people actually eat in one sitting, and not the recommendation. 

    Trans fats are required to be on the label and clear to read, as this is something that should be reduced in the diet.

    The addition of vitamin D and potassium as this is something that is often lacking in the intake for Americans. A lot of the current chronic diseases in the US are caused or a part of the cause has to do with these vitamins and lacking them in the diet.

    Vitamin A and Vitamin C have been removed from the nutrition labels due to the massive decline in the presence of deficiencies in these vitamins. 

    Supplement Facts Labels

    These will be very similar to the nutrition facts labels when it comes to the provision of pertinent information about the product.

    The FDA and The Federal Trade Commission

    Outside of the way the FDA regulates packaging for food, there also are some regulations on the claims and statements that companies can make on their products and in their advertising. 

    Claims about miracle foods and health-enhancing ingredients for long term benefits may influence the way consumers shop and buy foodstuff. 

    The FDA is mainly concerned with claims on product labeling, packing, inserts, and other promotional materials, and then the FTC is concerned with the claims made in advertisements and marketing. 

    Food and Supplement Claims

    There are three categories of claims to be made on both food and supplement labels: these are health claims, nutrient content claims, and structure or function claims.

    The producer or manufacturer are responsible for understanding the regulations behind the claims they want to make on the products.

    They have an obligation to make clear, truthful, and never mislead with the claims.

    Nutrient Content Claims

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    This is a claim on a food product that directly or indirectly characterizes the level of some nutrient in the food product.

    Some of the claims for each nutrient can be that they are free, low, reduced, less, or some small variations of these for a nutrient.

    Some other claims are with terms like High, Rich, good source of, more, fortified, extra, plus, lean, extra lean, high potency, modified, fiber claims, and claims with the word antioxidant. 

    Health Claims

    These are going to be reviewed and then authorized by the FDA. These claims describe the relationship between a food substance and the reduction in risk for a disease or other health condition.

    Health claims differ from the dietary guidelines since these guidelines do not link a substance and a health condition directly together. 

    An example of a health claim would be: 3 grams of soluble fiber from oatmeal daily in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk for heart disease.

    An example of dietary guidance is something like: Consuming 3 or more ounces of whole grains per day may reduce the risk for several chronic diseases.

    Structure and Function Claims

    These have historically appeared on the labels of conventional foods, dietary supplements, and drugs. 

    We have many regulations to follow for using structure and function claims and two relating types of dietary supplement labeling claims. These are claims of well-being and claims related to nutrient deficiency disease.

    If dietary supplement labels do make a claim that is iffy, then it must state a disclaimer that the FDA has not evaluated the claim.

    Organic Agriculture in the United States

    Organic agriculture makes products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials like pesticides and antibiotics. 

    The USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise the livestock and what materials they might use. 

    Organic farmers, ranchers, and food processors follow a defined set of standards to making the organic foods and fibers.

    There are separate claims to be made for organic claims and labels. 

    ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 15: Product and Supplement Labels and Claims 2
    ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 15: Product and Supplement Labels and Claims 3
    ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 15: Product and Supplement Labels and Claims 4

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