What is a RACC?
RACC stands for “Reference Amount Customarily Consumed” – in other words, how much an average person would be expected to eat in one sitting. It is used for a reference (or standard) when determining the serving size on food or beverage nutrition facts labeling.
Many food and beverage producers wonder what the serving size for their products should be based on. To help with this, the FDA provides a table of RACCs for hundreds of common items, ranging from drink mixes to burritos to baking soda. These RACC tables include a “Reference Amount” for each type of item (usually in weight or volume). The tables also include guidance for how to express the Reference Amount as a “Household Measure” (a measure that consumers are more familiar with, such as tablespoons or “slices”). Some examples of Household Measures include:
- Cups or teaspoons for items such as flour or cereal
- Fluid ounces for beverages
- Unit measures such as “3 muffins” or “1/2 slice”
- “1 bag” or “1 can” for products in smaller packages or containers
The Reference Amount and the Household Measure are both necessary to determine the serving size of a product.
It’s also worth noting that while the FDA RACC tables are extensive, they aren’t exhaustive. You may have a unique product that doesn’t fit neatly into any one category. That’s okay! At RL Food Testing Laboratory, we can also help suggest which categories may be the closest fit for your product.
Why is the RACC important?
You may be wondering why a RACC is included in FDA labeling requirements and why your product’s serving size needs to conform to a RACC.
At the heart of the RACC is a concern for your customers. FDA labeling requires that serving sizes be roughly standardized so that customers can easily make health-based comparisons between similar products. If products were able to list any serving size, this could be exploited to distort nutrition information.
For example, consider a scenario in which two competing yogurt products don’t abide by the RACC. Suppose that the first yogurt’s label states that it has 8g added sugar per serving, while the second yogurt’s label states that it has 16g. A health-conscious consumer might reasonably assume that the first yogurt has less added sugar. However, what if the first yogurt’s label listed a serving size of 24 grams, while the second’s listed a serving size of 160 grams? In that case, the second yogurt would actually be a much better choice!
Basing serving sizes on a RACC prevents this type of misleading situation. If these two products had used a RACC to determine their serving size, the nutrition facts labeling on the first yogurt would show 56g added sugar per serving, while the second would show only 17g added sugar per serving. Clearly, using serving sizes based on a RACC can help consumers make informed choices between different products.
With this in mind, the FDA label requirements state that a RACC must be used as the basis to determine the serving size for your food or beverage. In order to have a compliant FDA nutrition label, your product must follow this requirement. While not every product will have a serving size exactly equal to the RACC, the serving size must be based on the RACC and therefore should be close to the RACC. For example, you may produce cookies that weigh 35 grams each instead of the 30g listed as the Reference Amount for cookies; in this case, it is still acceptable to list your serving size as “1 cookie (35g)”.
The RACC can also be important in determining other aspects of your nutrition labeling. For example, the decision of whether or not a product requires a dual declaration label is based on the RACC for the type of product, regardless of your declared serving size.
How to use the RACC to find the serving size for your product
The RACC tables provided by the FDA will help you know what serving size to list on your FDA nutrition labels. For example, imagine that you produce a seasoned nut mix and need to decide what serving size you should put on your FDA nutrition label. Should your serving size be 50 grams, ½ cup, or “36 nuts”? The following steps will help you find what serving size should be listed on your nutrition facts labeling.
- First, navigate to the FDA’s RACC tables and start by locating your product in the relevant category. In this example, the “nuts, seeds, and mixtures” line in the “Nuts and Seeds” category would be most appropriate.
- Once you’ve located the correct category for your product, find the Reference Amount listed for your type of item. The Reference Amount tells you what amount to aim for with your serving size. In this example, the Reference Amount is 30 grams.
- Next, find the accompanying common Household Measure for your type of product. This will be located in the Label Statement column of the RACC table. For this example, cups or tablespoons are suggested, depending on the size of the nuts used.
- After you have this information, you will need to:
- Portion out different amounts of your product using the units suggested in the Household Measure column of the RACC tables. Try to portion out amounts that you think will be somewhat close to one serving. For example, you might portion out ¼ cup and 1/3 cup of nuts (since the Household Measure is cups).
- Next, determine the weight (or volume) of each of these different portions using the same units that are used in the Reference Amount. For example, find the weight of your ¼ cup and 1/3 cup of nuts in grams (since the Reference Amount is measured in grams).
- Once you’ve done this, your goal is to find the portion, expressed in terms of a Household Measure, that is closest to the Reference Amount. For example, say ¼ cup of nuts is equal to 28 grams, and 1/3 cup of nuts is equal to 37 grams. The 28 grams in ¼ cup is closest to the Reference Amount of 30 grams, so you will use “¼ cup” as the first part of your serving size.
- To determine the second part of your serving size, you simply list the weight or volume (usually in grams or milliliters) of the amount you used in the previous step. In this example, the second part of your serving size would be the actual weight of ¼ cup of nuts in grams, or 28 grams.
- Finally, combine your final answers from steps 5 and 6 following the format suggested in the Label Statement column of the RACC tables. Usually, this is simply the amount in the Household Measure followed by the gram weight (or volume in milliliters) in parenthesis. For example, your final serving size for the nuts example would be “1/4 cup nuts (28g)”.
Although the process of finding out what your serving size should be may seem a little intimidating at first, we at RL Food Testing are here to help! When you work with the specialists at RL Food Testing, you’ll have the support you need to make sure your FDA labeling is compliant with regulations. We will help you to use RACC tables, correctly identify the best RACC for your product, and calculate the serving size for your new nutrition labeling. We look forward to helping you meet the FDA labeling requirements for your unique product!