There's a curveball out there for those looking to count calories and shed a few pounds.

An online blog is claiming nutrition labels branded onto food products are legally allowed to be 'off' by 20%. Is the blog right? Can they do that and be off by that much?

Let's Verify!

Lisa, who's doing Weight Watchers, found the internet site called 'Hungry Girl.' The author is not a dietician, but Lisa wanted to know if her article about food labels could be verified. 

So we went to the source that makes the rules for food labels, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The first claim is that nutrition labels are legally allowed to be off by 20%. That's true regarding calories, sugar, fat, cholesterol, and sodium when comparing a lab analysis to what's declared on the product. 

What about serving sizes? Are they misleading? 

If you look at the label of a can of soup, it's actually two and a half servings. But most people would normally eat the whole thing. So yes, labels can be misleading on some products if you're not measuring. 

And because of that, are we in for a label overhaul?

That's true too. Last May, the FDA issued new guidelines which manufacturers must put in place by 2018. That means by law, serving sizes must be what we really eat.

So the calories in that 20 ounce bottle of pop you drink will actually be for the whole bottle, because eating habits and science has changed in the last 25 years, the labels now have to reflect that. 

VERIFY: Sources

The Food and Drug Administration:

VERIFY: Resources

READ: FDA Label Overhaul

READ: FDA Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling Manual (See Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 101.9(g))


READ: MarketWatch: Are your food and vitamin labels lying to you?

READ: U.S. News & World Report: When Nutrition Labels Lie


Help our journalists VERIFY the news. Do you know someone else we should interview for this story? Did we miss anything in our reporting? Is there another story you'd like us to VERIFY? Click here.