How is sodium in foods calculated?
March 21, 2009 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Question about nutrition information - For products like pickles and olives, which are usually packaged in jars with brine, does the total sodium content listed on the facts (amount per serving x number of servings) include the amount in the liquid?

Also, for items such as tortilla chips, where a lot of salt and seasoning tends to fall off the chips and collect at the bottom of the bag during shipping, does the total sodium content include the stuff at the bottom? or do they instead take a serving size from the bag, as someone eating the chips would do, and analyze it that way?

Also, a distantly related question (linked only by nutrition labels as the subject): I know that beer companies are not required to put the nutrition info on the bottle itself, but are they required to do an analysis of their products and have the information available somewhere? I'd really like to know how many calories are in that bottle of Chimay Blue or Stone Smoked Porter.
posted by captain cosine to Food & Drink (5 answers total)
No. What they list is how much you'd consume if you eat a pickle, or X olives, or thus-and-so many ounces of chips.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:23 PM on March 21, 2009

The nutritional content in a product comes from the total of all ingredients used and is then divided by the recommended serving size. It is way less of an exact science than people realize. This information is more of an estimate or average based on the product ingredients. I know that some companies use a computer program where you input the ingredients and serving size and it calculates the information for the nutritional label. So yes, I believe that sodium content in a jar of pickles includes the brine and the salt at the bottom of the bag that fell off the chips is included in the sodium count.

I am not sure about your beer question. The USA, the UK and Australia all use nutritional information on pre-packaged food, but lots of other countries do not. Chimay beer, which is made in Belgium, might be less likely to have this information. The Stone Brewery, based in California might have it. Maybe try contacting them and asking? I am sure other people would like this information too, although I suspect beer sales would go down if people realized exactly how many empty carbohydrates they consume when drinking beer!
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:38 PM on March 21, 2009

So yes, I believe that sodium content in a jar of pickles includes the brine

I don't think so, you can easily use a salometer to measure the amount of salt in a brine. If you measure the salinity before and after pickling, you can just subtract to see exactly how much salt was absorbed by the pickles.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:25 PM on March 21, 2009

Best answer: Code of Federal Regulations - Title 21: Food and Drugs (December 2005)





101.9 - Nutrition labeling of food.

"The declaration of nutrient and food component content shall be on the basis of food as packaged or purchased with the exception ....... of foods that are packed or canned in water, brine, or oil but whose liquid packing medium is not customarily consumed (e.g., canned fish, maraschino cherries, pickled fruits, and pickled vegetables). ..... Declaration of the nutrient and food component content of foods that are packed in liquid which is not customarily consumed shall be based on the drained solids."

(Note: I don't actually know anything about this, I just hate seeing random guesses.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:08 AM on March 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

It wasn't a random guess. I worked for a company that did nutritional labeling. This is how the company I worked for calculated labels.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:11 AM on March 22, 2009

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