The Food and Drug Administration knows from experience that if terms are not strictly defined, manufacturers will push the boundaries of regulations as far as they can. That's why commonsense words that everyone sort of knows are defined with utmost precision when it comes to food labeling. Surprisingly, this doesn't always mean the standards for food are all that strict. Just strictly-defined. For example, the word "free":
If it’s free of fat, or sugar, or salt, it doesn’t mean that not one trace of those things is to be found in it. The FDA evaluates certain terms with reference to a typical portion size known as an RACC (reference amounts customarily consumed per eating occasion). An RACC of eggnog, for example, is ½ cup. For croutons, it’s 7 grams, and for scrambled eggs, 100 grams. To be labeled “free” of calories, the food must have less than 5 per RACC. For fat and sugar, less than .5 grams. For sodium, less than 5 milligrams. Also, the food must somehow be processed to be “free” of those things in order to get the simple “free” label. You can’t have “fat free lettuce,” only “lettuce, a fat free food.”
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