Someone doesn't understand how milk fat percentages work, but who?
December 7, 2017 11:38 AM   Subscribe

At the grocery store today I saw two cartons of cream side-by-side. One was half & half cream and labelled 10% milk fat and the other was light cream and labelled 5% milk fat. The light cream also stated it had "33% less fat than our 10% cream". Shouldn't that be 50%? Picture of the cartons in question.

At first I thought it was maybe a reference point thing, like 10 is 25% more than 8 and 8 is 20% less than 10, but with 5 and 10 I am pretty sure it would be either 100% or 50% depending on which way you were looking at it.

Then I went to the maker's own nutritional information and they show that for the half & half one table spoon has 1.5g of fat and for the light cream it has 1g of fat. This fits the caption of the light cream having 33% less fat but to my mind would mean that the light cream is actually 6.67% milk fat and not 5%.

So then I thought that maybe we calculate milk fat in some different way, but the links I saw matched my rudimentary understanding of how milk fat should be calculated. But they are American links so maybe we have different ways of calculating it here.

Can someone please explain to me how the milk fat in these creams should be calculated?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
Possibly the light version has something like 0.7g, but the regulations require that they round that up to 1g? Just a guess.
posted by jkent at 12:07 PM on December 7, 2017

Half and Half is only half light cream - the rest is whole milk. The ten percent is the milkfat measurement of the light cream and then the whole milk has a 3.5 percent milkfat measurement. If using straight math, that would make the half and half's percentage something like 6.75 percent. 5 is more than two thirds of 6.75, though, so I am guessing the half-and-half may not be exactly half of each and the real percent is closer to 7.5
posted by soelo at 12:16 PM on December 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

Could they be different default serving sizes?
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:19 PM on December 7, 2017

In the US, the front of the package goes by weight rather than calories to make it seem like less, and this looks the same. So the percentage claims are basically BS anyway. The half and half cream has 20 calories and 1.5 grams of fat in a tablespoon. Fat is 9 calories per gram, so each tablespoon has 13.5 calories of fat (of 20 calories total). So it’s 67.5 percent fat.

This is why so-called 2 percent milk is more like 30 percent fat. Claims on the front of the package should be regarded as advertising.
posted by FencingGal at 12:35 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

BTW, going by weight makes it seem like there’s less fat because the product is mostly water, which weighs a lot and has no calories.
posted by FencingGal at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2017

The FDA (and CFIA) rules on nutrition labeling require them to round the amount of fat per serving to the nearest 0.5g. The higher-fat product is 10% fat, so 10% of a 15g serving is 1.5g. The lower-fat product is 5% fat, so 5% of a 15g serving is 0.75g which gets rounded to 1g. Therefore they can only claim 33% less fat, rather than the actual 50% difference.
posted by bgrebs at 12:41 PM on December 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

I don't know how they calculate this, but could they be going by the calorie content? Fat is 9 calories per gram, compared to proteins or carbs, which only have 4 calories per gram.
posted by itsflyable at 12:52 PM on December 7, 2017

I agree with bgrebs, this seems like a rounding thing.
posted by beandip at 1:02 PM on December 7, 2017

I suspected that their "Light Cream" may be something approaching the "Fat Free Half & Half" that is increasingly popular south of the border in the US. Only with a small amount of fat so that it tastes better. But judging by the nutritional labels, I'd say that the Light Cream is basically lightly enhanced whole milk. 5% dairy fat, as opposed to their whole milk (3.25% regular or 3.8% organic).

Some of the confusion here is that in the US Light Cream is a specific term. It is a milk product that has 18-29.9% dairy fat.

They also have fat free creamers that have 0.4g of fat. And the half & half says 1.5g of fat. More honest labelling than here. So I doubt that they're rounding in quite the same way that they do in the US.

I can't find the ingredients, or I'd be able to give you a more exact answer.
posted by monopas at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

To clarify, it seems that in Canada light cream is not a technical term the way it is in the US. Or this brand has put something like a trademark name for "Light Cream" on a very lightly enhanced whole milk.
posted by monopas at 1:14 PM on December 7, 2017

This is the reply I got from the conglomerate that makes the cream which says a whole lot of nothing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your recent e-mail to Parmalat Canada.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us regarding our Lactantia 5% Light Cream product. In response to your inquiry, we follow all mandated Canadian labeling regulations.

Thank you for your loyalty and for taking the time to write to us.


Consumer Relations,
Parmalat Canada
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:52 AM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

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