14

votes

Where the heck does nutrition information come from?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 02, 2010 at 8:27 PM

We are experts in the omega-three content of grass-fed beef; we know how much PUFA is in our macadamia nut oil; and how much potassium is in our avocados. But where does this information come from? It seems like maybe we don't think about that enough. I'd love to know:

i. What is the process for determining all the nutrients contained in a given food? Some of the information is incredibly detailed: you can get the breakdown of every single kind of lipid: 16:1, 16:1c, 16:1t -- and on and on. It would be great if someone out there could give an accessible explanation of how this works. All I know is that you don't just set the food on fire. (Because fire burns cellulose and people don't.)

ii. Who provides the information? Is it only the FDA? Are there private corporations involved as well? Is there competition and disagreement about some of the facts? What are the motives for discovering the nutrition information? And, maybe most important: Can we trust everything we read?

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157

on February 13, 2012
at 08:45 PM

Sorry, wCC Paul ♦, I'll get it right eventually.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 13, 2012
at 08:18 PM

One diamond !

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157

on February 13, 2012
at 07:42 PM

Or is "WCC Paul ♦♦" more appropriate???

6714718e2245e5190017d643a7614157

on February 13, 2012
at 07:40 PM

I like this question "WCC PAUL ♦" I've been wondering about this also.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:32 AM

Well at least we can correct some of our our human errors. Good to see you.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 02, 2010
at 09:52 PM

declaration of the percent of the DRV for protein need not be provided when a claim is not made." So the costs involved in the determination of something ends up affecting what we see and don't see ...

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 02, 2010
at 09:50 PM

On the complications involved, check this out from the FDA about protein: "The percent of the DRV is required if a protein claim is made for the product or if the product is represented or purported to be for use by infants or children under 4 years of age. Based on current scientific evidence that protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and children over 4 years of age, and because of the costs associated with a determination of the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), FDA has determined that [...] [Continued]

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 02, 2010
at 09:49 PM

Nice. That certainly answers some of my questions. Note that the FDA doesn't do any of its own testing--or at least that testing is not available for use on labels by food producers. They have to find and pay labs to do it, or use databases. The FDA does officially accept databases, but they don't do that with labs. So if you want new information, the FDA won't find it out for you, and they also won't tell you which lab to use--but they will reserve the right to punish you for messing up.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 02, 2010
at 08:56 PM

There's also quite a few different ways to test for different nutrients. A friend of mine is testing vitamin A in different corn varities today using a mass spectrometer, and that is all he has done, all day. So I suspect that it's complicated.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on November 02, 2010
at 08:41 PM

I think it's a great question. Plus how many sources are tested, I've heard of broad variation based on where food is grown/raised etc

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3 Answers

best answer

5
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 02, 2010
at 08:54 PM

Here is the answer from the FDA.

In short...

  • Food companies hire labs to analyze nutrients. Validated ingredient databases can be used, but the language is ambiguous on this issue.
  • Labels are only required to have certain nutrients listed (such as protein, iron, etc). You can put other nutrients (such as omega 3) on there if it is not presented in a misleading fashion.
  • The FDA essentially will never check up on you unless you do something egregious in labeling. So you can mislabel if you want, and go scott-free.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 02, 2010
at 08:56 PM

There's also quite a few different ways to test for different nutrients. A friend of mine is testing vitamin A in different corn varities today using a mass spectrometer, and that is all he has done, all day. So I suspect that it's complicated.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 02, 2010
at 09:49 PM

Nice. That certainly answers some of my questions. Note that the FDA doesn't do any of its own testing--or at least that testing is not available for use on labels by food producers. They have to find and pay labs to do it, or use databases. The FDA does officially accept databases, but they don't do that with labs. So if you want new information, the FDA won't find it out for you, and they also won't tell you which lab to use--but they will reserve the right to punish you for messing up.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 02, 2010
at 09:50 PM

On the complications involved, check this out from the FDA about protein: "The percent of the DRV is required if a protein claim is made for the product or if the product is represented or purported to be for use by infants or children under 4 years of age. Based on current scientific evidence that protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and children over 4 years of age, and because of the costs associated with a determination of the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), FDA has determined that [...] [Continued]

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 02, 2010
at 09:52 PM

declaration of the percent of the DRV for protein need not be provided when a claim is not made." So the costs involved in the determination of something ends up affecting what we see and don't see ...

2
Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on March 14, 2011
at 06:17 PM

Quite interesting that this question has 5 upvotes, yet only 1 answer, meaning that people are interested in the question, yet not many people know the answer. I have often wondered this myself. A bit scary when you realize that there could be a fair amount of human error in the nutrition numbers. Also kinda spooky that every single food and drink product with a label has the nutrition breakdown of some sort on it. You'd think that with that much work going into the labeling, way more people would be familiar with the workings of that process.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:32 AM

Well at least we can correct some of our our human errors. Good to see you.

1
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on February 11, 2012
at 08:59 AM

I don't know where it comes from - but it varies a lot depending on if you check foods using NutritionData, FitDay etc. Checking 100 grams sardines canned in oil, NutritionData gives %RDA of selenium as 75, %RDA B12 as 372. FitDay gives %RDA of selenium as 96, B12 as 149.

And I find this with so many foods that I find trying to work out if I've got near the RDA of various minerals /vitamins is really difficult!

And there doesn't seem to be an analysis (that I can find) of Red Palm Oil at all.

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