Cholesterol content on labels

Pirate’s Booty, Aged White Cheddar (2017, B&G Foods, Inc.)


This product contains cheddar cheese and as a result, cholesterol is listed on the label. For those with Cardiovascular, and all others, this product should be avoided because there is currently no safe level of cholesterol to consume. Example from label: 5mg of cholesterol in 1 ounce.

According to the Institute of Medicine ([IOM], 2002), “the report doesn’t set maximum levels for saturated fat, cholesterol, or trans fatty acids, as increased risk exists at levels above zero, however the recommendation is to eat as little as possible while consuming a diet adequate in important other essential nutrients” (para. 8). The IOM (2002) also states “a Tolerable Upper Intake Level is not set for cholesterol because any incremental increase in cholesterol intake increases CHD (coronary heart disease) risk” (p. 542). According to the American Heart Association (2016), cholesterol is found in animal foods that individuals consume (para. 5).

Look for cholesterol on the label. If possible avoid purchasing products that contain cholesterol and find other alternatives. According to the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and United States Department of Agriculture (2015), cholesterol is only found in animal products and humans are able to produce all of the cholesterol they need (p. 90). Cholesterol can also be found in processed foods which means they were made using animal products or animal byproducts. Some processed foods may contain cholesterol even though it may appear that animal products are not listed on the label. Be wary of unrecognizable words and always review the ingredient statement.

How can food manufacturers develop labels that claim there is no cholesterol in their product even though the product contains animal flesh or animal by products?

FDA Labeling Laws: According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21 food and drugs, chapter 1 food and drug administration, department of health and human services subchapter B – Food for Human consumption Volume 2 Part 101 – Food Labeling, Subpart D – Specific Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims 101.62 Nutrient Content Claims for fat, fatty acids, and cholesterol content of foods states the “declaration of cholesterol content may be omitted when the food contains less than 2 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per reference amount customarily consumed (para. 33).

This labeling law means that if a product serving size contains less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving it does not need to be listed on the label.  Yet, as the IOM (2002) recognized “increased risk exists at levels above zero” for cholesterol intake (para. 8). Until labeling laws are changed, it is everyone’s responsibility to read labels very closely to ensure the products they purchase do not contain animal flesh or animal byproducts.

**Tips for avoiding cholesterol: Avoid purchasing foods that contain animal flesh or animal byproducts; generally, only animal products contain cholesterol. If the product contains whey, or gelatin or is made with animal-based byproducts, the product may contain cholesterol. Be sure to review the nutrition facts panel as well as the ingredient list.

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