GDA label

The information on this page is historical. Food labels are changing and the term Guideline Daily Amount is being replaced by Reference Intake (RI). Read about the new nutrition labelling requirements.

The label contains a great amount of information about the content of a product, so lets break it down into sections to explain what all the numbers mean using the example below of a packet of crisps.

What the numbers relate to

The top line of text on the label tells us how much of the food the information below it relates to. In this case it is 'each pack'. crisps with GDA label

On different products you might see explanations such as, 'each slice contains' on loaves of bread, or 'per bar' on cereal and chocolate bars and 'per 50g portion', often found on products such as pasta and rice where you tend to weigh out how much you need before cooking.

It is important to read this line in order to know how much of the product the information on the label relates to.

How much is in one portion?

On the next line, each icon provides information about a different nutrient (or calories). Sometimes you will see icons for different nutrients such as fibre on food packs, but usually labels contain five icons, which are for calories, sugars, fat, saturates (saturated fat) and salt – always appearing in the same order.

The top numbers tells you the amount of each nutrient in one portion of the food. In this case the portion is a packet of crisps so you can see how many calories and how many grams of sugars, fat, saturates (saturated fat), and salt are contained in that one pack.

Looking at the label it is clear that each pack contains 183 calories, 0.2 grams of sugars, 11.7 grams of fat, 0.9 grams of saturates (saturated fat) and 0.5 grams of salt.

Whatever your nutrient requirements, you can use this section of the label to help you make choices about the food you eat.

How much of the GDA?

The bottom half of the label tells you how much a portion of the food contributes to the GDAs.

GDAs are the total, or one hundred per cent (100%) of the recommended number of calories, and the recommended maximum amounts of sugars, fat, saturates (saturated fat), and salt that an average adult should eat in one day.

Calorie GDA example for crispsSo looking at calories to start with. The calorie GDA for an adult is 2,000. The top line of numbers on the GDA label tells us that each pack contains 183 calories. 183 is 9 percent of 2,000, so the product contains 9 percent of the GDA for calories. This is shown by the number on the bottom of the label.

The same calculations are made for the remaining nutrients; looking along the label shows us that the crisps packet contains less than 1 percent of the GDA for sugars, 17 percent of the GDA for fat, 5 percent of the GDA for saturates (saturated fat) and 8 percent of the GDA for salt.

You don't need to know how to make these calculations because they are already done for you and shown clearly on the GDA label. You just need to check and compare the numbers and choose which product best suits your needs (see more on using the GDA label).

Remember, GDAs are recommended amounts not targets, so whilst it is OK to stay pretty close to the GDA for calories, the GDAs shown for sugars, fat, saturates (saturated fat) and salt are upper limits, so we should try not to consume any more than these in any given day. They are all essential for the body, however overconsumption can lead to medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

You can use either the grams per portion (the top half of the label), the percentages of GDAs (the bottom half of the label), or both to help you make the right choices.

Which GDA?

The bottom line of the label tells us that the numbers relate to 'an adult's guideline daily amount'. A few products designed specifically for children contain information based on children's GDAs so it's important to check this line to make sure you know who GDAs relate to - see more on GDAs for women, men and children.

GDA labels on small packsGDA Calorie icon

On some small food packs there isn't enough room for the five icon GDA label so only the calorie content is shown on the front of pack, like in the example on the right.

You can see that this food contains 137 calories per serving, which is seven percent of the adult GDA for calories.

Often smaller packs will have more information on the back of the pack, so you can always check there as well.


Last reviewed: 28 Jan 2014