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Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) and Nutrition Claims

Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) and Nutrition Claims


(CMA Testing and Certification Laboratories)

Hong Kong SAR government has recently proposed that appropriate nutrient reference values (“NRVs”) should be established for nutrients on infant formula, follow-up formula and prepackaged foods for infants and young children under the age of 36 months (“IYC foods”), otherwise no nutrition and health claims should be made in respect of that nutrients on formula products and IYC foods.

What are Nutrient Reference Values?

NRVs are a set of recommended intake values of various nutrients that are based on scientific data.

The reference values tell you about the amount of different nutrients required per day; and can be used for establishing a condition for use of nutrient claim about a particular nutrient. For example, nutrition content claim “rich in protein” can only be made if a solid food contains not less than 20% of the NRV of protein per 100 g of food. In addition, Hong Kong stipulates that a nutrient function claim shall not be made for a nutrient not provided with a NRV.

Different countries have their own NRVs. Below is the NRVs adopted in Hong Kong for prepackaged foods, based on Chinese NRVs and a 2000-kcal diet.

Reference Values (NRVs) and Nutrition Claims1.jpg

However, these values are not applicable to infant and young children under the age of 36 months. That’s why the government need to establish another set of NRVs specifically for them when establishing the conditions for nutrition and health claims on formula products and IYC foods.

Necessity for Indication of % NRV

You may note that nutrition labels on some prepackaged food sold in Hong Kong bear a column known as “% NRV”. It refers to nutrient contents on the basis of percentage of NRV per serving or per 100 g / ml of food, using a scale from 0% to 100%.

Depending on the nutrient type, a high % NRV of a nutrient is not always good. For example, you should look for foods with lower % NRV of those nutrients that you should limit e.g. saturated fat and sodium. In contrast, a high % NRV of nutrients like dietary fibre in food will be good for your health.


In Hong Kong, the amount of specified nutrients must be shown on a food label but the indication of % NRV is voluntary. Ironically, numeric value in a food label is not user friendly enough to enable most citizens to know about what proportion the prepackaged food contributes to the amount of various nutrients required per day.

Indication of % NRV (or similar terms “% Daily Value” in United States and “% Daily Intake” in Australia) in a food label is already a must in many countries including China. In order to make nutrition label being effectively used, Hong Kong should stipulate that % NRV must be indicated in all prepackaged food for peoples at all ages, including adults, children and infants.