Research Article

The origin of Guideline Daily Amounts and the Food Standards Agency's guidance on what counts as ‘a lot’ and ‘a little’

Mike Raynera1 c1, Peter Scarborougha1 and Carol Williamsa2

a1 British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 7LF, UK

a2 Centre for International Child Health, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK


Objective: This paper provides the rationale for the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) for fat, saturated fat and other nutrients that appear on food labels in the UK. These GDAs are provided voluntarily by manufacturers and retailers and were developed to help people make better use of nutrition labelling – the format of which is prescribed by the European Union's nutrition labelling directive. The paper also describes the basis to some Rules of Thumb for what counts as ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ of fat, saturated fat and other nutrients, in an individual food.

Design: The paper gives the background to, and purpose of, the GDAs and Rules of Thumb and explains how they were calculated. It briefly describes their subsequent usage by food producers and others.

Results: Both GDAs and the Rules of Thumb first appeared in a leaflet developed by the authors and published in 1996 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. GDAs for fat, saturated fat and energy were adopted subsequently by the Institute of Grocery Distribution and then by many retailers and some manufacturers. The Rules of Thumb for fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium have recently been republished in some leaflets published by the Food Standards Agency in the UK.

Conclusions: GDAs and Rules of Thumb may provide useful ways of helping consumers make sense of nutrition labelling. The current GDAs and the Rules of Thumb could usefully be updated in the light of recent developments.

(Received August 07 2003)

(Accepted October 10 2003)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email