Low Fat Milk - Labeling Changes in the US

~ May 1998 No.42 ~

You don’t have to walk too far down any grocery store isle to see products that are labeled “no fat”, “reduced in fat” “fat free” or “light”. The people who control labeling legislation have realized it is all very confusing to the average consumer. This is especially true when you realize that a product can contain fat and legally have “no fat” on its label.

Whole Milk Label

Milk producers, like many other sectors of the food industry felt the pressure of consumers looking to reduce the fat in their diets and as a result we now have a choice of whole milk, 2%, 1% and skim milk. But what can you write on the package of 2% milk. It obviously is lower in fat than whole milk, but is it low in fat? The United States Food and Drug Administration says no. They have a standard and 2% milk is above that standard. So 2% milk may carry the claim "reduced in fat" because it contains more than 25% less fat than whole milk. But 2% milk is not "low fat". 1% milk qualifies as "low fat".

Perhaps even more confusing is the fact that skim milk can carry the term "nonfat" or "fat-free" even though it does contain some fat. Again, the US Food and Drug Administration has a standard and when a food contains less than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving it is considered to contain no fat. Such a rule makes it particularly difficult for those looking to reduce the fat in their diet.

Fat Content of Various Milks
typegrams fat
per serving (1 cup)
grams fat
per 100 g
cow whole milk8.033.34
cow 2% milk4.691.92
cow 1% milk2.591.06
cow skim milk0.440.18
goat milk10.104.14
Human milk10.784.38


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Last modified

July 27 2015