The complete guide to Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC)—What it is, why it’s important, & what you NEED to know about it
While “Reference Amount Customarily Consumed,” or RACC, sounds complex, you could define it simply as, ”The amount of food you could expect an average person to reasonably eat at one time.”
So, while it’s easy to define, the real questions are, “Why does RACC matter? What do you need to know about it as a food company? And how do you get it right?”
Those questions require more nuanced, in-depth answers, and that’s exactly what we explore in the blog post below. Read on to discover everything essential you need to know about the Reference Amount Customarily Consumed.
What goes into determining the Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC)?
As we established already, a desire to inform and protect consumers has led to the requirement of serving-size recommendations on packaged food and beverages.
To help food and beverage producers know what their serving sizes should be based on, the FDA offers a complete table of RACCs for a wide and comprehensive variety of everyday food items that range from range from protein shakes to dumplings to table salt.
The RACC table provided by the FDA features a “Reference Amount” for every individual food item. The table most often recommends Reference Amounts based on their volume or weight. These helpful tables offer additional value by helping users determine how to convey the Reference Amount to the consumer using what’s referred to as a “Household Measure.”
Household Measures, such as a teaspoon or a cup, help consumers understand the reference amount in terms they’re most accustomed to using in everyday life. Most people, after all, are not food scientists. Other examples of Household Measure consist of the following:
- Tablespoons to measure items like powdered sugar, baking mixes, or powdered supplements
- Fluid ounces for liquids and beverages like soda, fruit juice concentrate, or chicken broth
- Unit measures such as “four cookies,” “three cans,” or “one pouch” for products in smaller containers and packages.
While it might seem unnecessary to determine both the Reference Amount and the Household Measure, these measurements each play a critical role in figuring out a product’s true, accurate serving size.
Why is RACC so important to the FDA & food producers?
As stated earlier, the FDA wants to provide your customers with accurate information about what they consume. As with listing ingredients, listing accurate serving sizes (informed by RACCs) helps consumers compare products and make more informed decisions that lead to healthier outcomes.
Without regulation and standardization around serving sizes, food companies run the risk of giving inaccurate data to their customers that distort portion sizes and nutritional information. At the very worst, this could allow companies to knowingly mislead consumers into consuming at unhealthy levels.
An example of why RACC matters
How might it look if we didn’t have standardized RACCs? Take two different brands of fruit juice, for instance. Juice number one features a label that indicates it contains 15 grams of sugar with each serving. Juice number two includes a label claiming that it contains 20 grams of sugar.
A shopper that’s trying to reduce their sugar intake would likely reason that juice number one contains less added sugar. However, if juice number one also listed a single serving size of 30 grams while juice number two has a listed serving size of 175 grams, then juice number two would actually make for a healthier option.
Now, for the average consumer, drinking either juice one or two would be fine. But what if your customer lives with Diabetes? Well, then choosing the juice with the right amount of sugar becomes more than just a matter of keeping off a few extra pounds. At this point, it could even mean life and death.
To effectively comply with FDA labeling standards and legally sell your product, serving sizes must originate from a RACC, even if the serving size does not exactly match the RACC. The serving size must be based on a RACC, and it must be close.
For instance, if you bake pre-sliced gluten-free bread that weighs 42 grams a slice instead of the 38 grams indicated as the Reference Amount for a slice of bread, then it would still be sufficient to list your serving size as “1 slice (42g).”
How can I use the RACC to find an accurate, FDA-compliant serving size for my food or beverage?
Having the FDA standardize recommendations through RACCs makes the process of determining accurate serving sizes much easier for food companies and producers. When you use a RACC as a starting point, you benefit from work that’s already been accomplished by the FDA.
To find an accurate serving size using a RACC, use the following process.
- Using the RACC tables provided by the FDA, find the category of product that matches your food or beverage. For example, if you sell a bag of whole wheat flour, then the “Multi-grain flours or meal” category is where you’ll want to look.
- After you find the category you’re looking for, locate the Reference Amount recorded for your specific product. In the case of your flour, the chart indicates that the Reference Amount is 500 grams.
- Once there, locate the common Household Measure that accompanies the Reference Amount. You can find this information in the Label Statement column. Going back to our example, your flour would likely use cups for its Household Measure.
- Now that you have both the Reference Amount and the Household Measure, you will then portion your flour into various amounts recommended by the Household Measure column on the RACC tables.
- From there, you will record the weight of the various portions by using the same units specified in the Reference Amount. If we go back to our flour example, you would want to determine the number of grams that a half cup and a whole cup of flour each weigh.
- Next, you want to find the portion (expressed in Household Measure) that’s closest to the Reference Amount. Imagine that a fourth of a cup of flour equals 280 grams, and a third of a cup of flour equals 370 grams. Since 280 grams in a fourth cup lands closest to the Reference Amount of 300 grams, it’s best to use a fourth cup as the first part of your particular serving size for your flour.
- To figure out the second part of the serving size of your flour, start by weighing the amount you used in the step before. You’ll likely use milliliters or grams for this. In this case, the second part of your serving size should be the weight of a fourth cup of flour (or 280 grams).
- In this final step, take your answers from the previous two steps and combine them together. Here, you’ll want to follow the format that the RACC table suggests in the Label Statement column. In most cases, this is usually the amount in the Household Measure followed by the weight in grams or the volume in milliliters. Make sure you put this amount in between parentheses. The final serving size of your flour, for instance, would be written as “¼ cup flour (280 grams).”
Could Medallion Labs help me determine serving size using RACC?
While you now know how to determine serving size using RACC, you can still rely on the experts at Medallion Labs to help you get there.
They’ll make sure that the serving sizes you end up with are accurate and FDA-compliant so that you can get your products from an idea to the lab to the store shelf as quickly as possible.
Connect with us or call 1-800-245-5615 to discuss your food products' criteria and testing needs.