Reading German food labels
All food products produced in the European Union must follow the European Union’s Food Labeling Laws. Information that must be on a food label includes the following:
- Name of the product
- List of ingredients
- Allergy causing substances
- Expiration date
- Contents (measurement in g, kg, ml, etc. of edible portion)
- Genetically modified or irradiated
- “bestrahit” oder “mit ionisierenden Strahlen behandelt”
- Open foods such as fruits and vegetables:
- Name of fruit or vegetable
- Country of origin
- Use of preservatives
- Final price and price per kg, liter, piece, etc.
You are probably familiar with the Nutrition Facts Panel in the U.S. All food items, except for open products such as fruits and vegetables and meat, must have the Nutrition Facts Panel on the label in a specific format and it must always contain the same information such as calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates per serving and ingredients. In Germany, there is no standardized food label. Besides the information previously listed, all nutritional information is purely optional unless a claim (example: low-fat, healthy) is made on the label.
The percentages of certain nutrients that are listed on the American Nutrition Facts food label refer to the Reference Daily Intake (RDI). RDIs are set by the USDA as estimates of how much of certain nutrients we should be eating. Germans have similar guidelines called the Guidelines Daily Amounts (GDAs). German labels may carry percentages based upon the GDAs. The German government has set GDAs for fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar and fiber.
Below are the German GDAs compared to the American RDIs (the RDIs are in parentheses). As you can see, most of the GDAs are similar to the RDIs except for salt.
|Energy||2000 kcal||2500 kcal|
|Protein||50 g||60 g|
|Carbohydrates||270 g (300 g)||340 g (375 g)|
|Fat||70 g (65 g)||80 g (80 g)|
|Saturated Fat||20 g (20 g)||30 g (25 g)|
|Fiber||25 g (25 g)||25 g (30 g)|
|Salt||6000 mg Sodium (2400 mg)||6000 mg Sodium (2400 mg)|
|Total Sugar||90 g||110 g|
To read a German food label, it helps to know some German. Here is a guide to the most common words found on a German nutrition label:
Nahrwertangaben Portion Size
In case you need something in a grocery stores, here are a few important statement:
How much does it cost per kilo? Wieviel kostet das pro Kilo?
How long will it keep? Wie lange ist das haltbar?
I’ll take this. Iche nehme dies.
Give me half a kilo of it. Geben Sie mir ein halbes Kilo davon.
Can you wrap it up for the journey? Konnen Sie mir das Fur die Reise verpacken?
Here is a review of the units of measurements use in the United States:
8 ounces = 1 cup
16 ounces = 2 cups = 1 pint
32 ounces = 4 cups = 2 pints = ½ gallon
64 ounces = 8 cups = 4 pints = 1 gallon
128 ounces = 16 cups = 8 pints = 4 quarts = 1 gallon
1 pound = 16 ounces
Unlike the United States, Europe uses the metric system. Here are a few helpful conversions you may need during you grocery shopping.
1 pound = 0.45 kilograms
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
1 ounce = 28 grams
1 gram = 0.035 ounces
1 ounce = 30 milliliters
1 milliliter = 0.03 ounces
1 cup = 0.24 liters
1 liter = 4.2 cups
1 teaspoon = 5 milliliters
1 tablespoon = 15 milliliters
1 cup = 240 milliliters
An 8-ounce baby bottle contains 240 milliliters.
Jenny Dietrich, Brend Dietrich and Sandra Erb contributed to this article.