Nutritional analysis, labelling & claims explained

When you look at the Nutritional Labelling on the packaged foods you buy (check out our Blogs on Food Labels and Nutritional Labelling from January and May 2020), you’ll see a panel showing the energy values and various levels of fat, carbohydrate, protein and so on. Have you ever wondered how this is all worked out?

The system used is commonly called “Nutritional Analysis” and it is the way that the levels of the various nutrients present in your food are determined. There are a two methods that can be used to do this – the food is either analysed in the lab (called chemical analysis), or else the nutrient levels are calculated using one of the many software packages that are available, and which use the known nutrient values for each ingredient. There is a massive international database of values which started life as “McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods“. Elsie Widdowson and Robert McCance worked together in post-war Britain in the 1940’s and their book, which was first published in 1940 became the bible for anyone working on food nutrition. The seventh edition of this tome is widely available to buy, but the datasets are available for free download if you’re feeling so inclined!

You might also hear about “Nutritional Claims” – so what does that mean? Put very simply, it is when a food declares itself to be “high in fibre” or “low in fat” or “a source of protein” or one of the myriad of other potential nutritional claims. These claims must meet the strict criteria set out by the EU, although the average consumer could not be expected to know what they are! For example, for something to be “low fat” is must have less than 3g fat per 100g. A good example is bread, and the sliced pan typically only has 1.4g/100g making it low fat, naturally! Bread is also low in sugar and there is no added sugar in your sliced pan. For a food to declare “reduced” or “lite / light” on the other hand, it must have a reduction of 30% compared to a similar product. Just because its reduced doesn’t make it low!

A report carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA), and commissioned by the Irish Bread Bakers Association (IBBA), in 2016, states that bread contributes 20% to our fibre intake and 9% to our protein intake, while white bread only contributes 1% to our daily fat and sugar intake. Interestingly, the study found a direct correlation between those preschool children who ate bread and increased growth and development within that preschool group.

Nutritional Facts about bread:

  • Bread is a good source of carbohydrate, as well as vitamins (especially B vitamins), calcium, Iron, protein, fibre and folic acid.
  • Bread is low in fat and low in sugar.
  • Bread is an inexpensive source of many of the nutrients your body needs no matter what age you are.
  • Bread is an important part of everyone’s diet, even if you are watching your weight.

For more information:

  1. History of McCance & Widdowson -
  2. Article -
  3. Composition of Foods Integrated datasets from Public Health England -
  4. Information on Nutrition and health Claims, April 2021, Published by: the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and available for free download from
  5. Bread and the Irish Diet – IUNA Report (2016) -!OpenDocument