Can I write "0.5% milk" or "27% cream cheese" to indicate the fat content?

Edit: just to make things clearer - it will be used in the list of ingredients of a recipe

Edit 2: here's a picture of a milk which containts 1.5% of fat http://www.mlekarna-kunin.cz/media/cache/d2/f9/d2f9e86fec4c615ff41005c97d317f07.png

I need to know If I can say "1.5% milk" in English because semi skimmed (1.7%) nor reduced-fat (2%) source: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skimmed_milk does not express 1.5%.

Here's the text


200 ml 1.5% milk

10 g vanilla pudding

5 g vanilla sugar

120 g raspberries

I hope my question is clear now :)

  • '0.5% milk' would generally be reserved for 'This cake contains '0.5% milk'; 'milk: 0.5% [fat]' is the generally accepted way. But, looking at Sven's answer, this is again target-audience specific. If you use your suggested format with a wider audience, you need to explain your usage. And note that he doesn't seem to recognise '27% cream cheese'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '15 at 9:08
  • Grocers and customers often refer to "reduced-fat milk" that contains (approximately) 2 percent milk fat as "2% milk." Dairies may be under special labeling requirements to spell out "2% milkfat" as part of a longer description of "reduced-fat milk," but everyday people are not, and since reduced-fat milk is commonly available in 1 percent and 2 percent milkfat versions (among others), it makes sense to emphasize the actual percentage of milkfat when specifying the kind of milk you want. I often hear people (here in California) referring to "1% milk" or "2% milk." – Sven Yargs Aug 31 '15 at 9:09
  • You can certainly write those things in terms of English grammar. However you seem to be asking about regulations or science. Both are off-topic here. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 10:00
  • I believe there is a relation to the English language. I need to know how to say that certain milk contains 0.5% of fat in the most concise way. – The Cook Aug 31 '15 at 10:06
  • Saying that something is '0.5% milk' is quite different to the statement that 'milk contains 0.5% fat'. They have completely different meanings. Maybe this is a language question after all. Please can you edit your question to make it absolutely clear what you want your numbers to mean. That way we can try to answer. Thanks. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 10:13

When I was but a lad, in Texas, dairy milk was sold in three forms: whole milk (which included all of the milkfat—accounting for approximately 4 percent or more of the milk by volume—from the cows' original contribution), skim milk (with virtually none of the milkfat included) and low-fat milk (with milkfat accounting for approximately 2 percent of the milk).

In more-recent years, a number of subcategories of "low-fat" or "reduced-fat" milk have appeared on the market, including (in various places) versions that specify 2 percent milkfat, 1.5 percent milkfat, 1 percent milkfat, and 0.5 percent milkfat. Government labeling regulations in the United States require a lengthy wording spelling out the fat content of the milk in acceptable detail. Thus, for example, the two brands of reduced-fat milk currently in my refrigerator have the labels "Trader Joe's | 2% Milkfat | Reduced Fat Milk | Vitamins A & D | 44% Less Fat Than Milk" and "Crystal Creamery | Reduced Fat Milk | 2% Milkfat • Vitamin A & D | 38% Less Fat Than Regular Milk."

As a matter of common parlance, in the various parts of the United States where I've lived, the subcategories of reduced-fat milk are referred to not as "0.5% [or 1% or 1.5% or 2%] milkfat reduced-fat milk" but as "0.5% milk" (or "1% milk" or "1.5% milk" or "2% milk)."

Under the circumstances, if you are addressing an audience accustomed to this short-form convention in identifying subcategories of reduced-fat milk, you will be entirely understood if you use, for example, "1.5% milk." On the other hand, as some of the comments and answers given in response to this question indicate, if you are going outside the area where the "1.5% milk" form is widely used—to a place, such as the UK, where the form evidently isn't widely used—you would perhaps do better in a list of ingredients to specify the milk component as something like this:

200 ml milk (1.5% milkfat)

  • @Mari-LouA: Maybe I'm not thinking clearly here, but my idea is that we have a particular area (namely, the United States) within which the "1.5% milk" short form is widely used and understood; but if we go outside that area (to the UK, say), use of that short form may elicit misinterpretations (or blank stares). Maybe the problem is with how I refer to the UK example. I'll try to revise that. – Sven Yargs Aug 31 '15 at 22:34
  • @Mari-LouA: No, no—I just added that. I think I didn't express the idea very well the first time around. Thanks for pointing out the weakness in the original presentation. – Sven Yargs Aug 31 '15 at 22:43
  • Gosh, you edited so fast I hadn't noticed. Yes, it is clearer now :) – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 '15 at 22:45

(1) Your ingredient list:


200 ml 1.5% milk

10 g vanilla pudding

5 g vanilla sugar

120 g raspberries

is entirely and totally correct, and you should write it precisely like that.

(The only alternate, would be "1.5% milk-fat milk" which would be perfectly understandable, but readers would wonder why you wrote it that way.)

(2) 1.5% milk is almost always referred to as "1.5% milk" in the USA. (Same for other milks, example 2% milk, 1% milk, 0% milk, etc.) This applies to both packaging, written, and spoken AmE. (Naturally, phrases like "low fat milk" are also used.)

(3) You can trivially find any number of examples of this since there are a great number of recipes online, and they are all written the normal and usual way - that way.

enter image description here

(4) Regarding 27% cream cheese. I would suggest it's somewhat less usual to say that (just because, families/etc refer to milk every day ["someone get some more two percent milk today!"] but less often cream cheese. It is perfectly understandable, but it's possibly the case that

cream cheese (27%)

is more common. (Just to repeat, "27% cream cheese" is perfectly understandable.)

(5) In general terms it seems totally commonplace to shorten a two-word adjective ("18/20 chromium steel") to only the key part ("18/20 steel"); there are endless examples and, again, I'm surprised my buddy Chas above is surprised by it.

  • Your pal Chas is not "above" if I set the filter to highest or active votes. Best say @Chasly – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 '15 at 14:06
  • You know, using phrases like "above" in these QA sites, in a small way makes a mockery of the system; I like things like that :) – Fattie Aug 31 '15 at 14:08
  • I don't think it makes a mockery of the system, but rather it indicates the author is someone who doesn't know how the site works. :) – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 '15 at 14:12
  • I think in my case it's more like I'm parodying newbies who do not know how the site works, and whom say things like "above" -- it's kind of a cross between lovingly parodying such newbies, and indeed, making a mockery of the system (along the lines of "everyone knows this is just a chat site, we all try to pretend it's officious QA...") Don't you think? :) – Fattie Aug 31 '15 at 14:40
  • @Joe Blow Let me thank you for your answer! Could I use "cream cheese (27% fat)" to make even more clear? – The Cook Sep 1 '15 at 12:25

Not in the US, where you have to give the grams per serving of food components (fat, carbohydrates, protein). In any case, your scheme will provide misleading indicators: regular cream cheese is 34% fat by weight and 88% fat by calorie count.

  • 1
    This has nothing to do with the English language. However. to be fair, neither does the question. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 10:01
  • There is a standard usage for food labeling mandated by federal law in the US. If you don't like the question, flag it. – deadrat Aug 31 '15 at 10:07
  • I already have. There are similar laws in the UK. However this isn't the Law SE. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 10:09
  • If this is a recipe, and not an ingredients list on packaged food, then there no so federal law involved. – Hot Licks Aug 31 '15 at 11:36
  • Just as HotLicks says. – Fattie Aug 31 '15 at 12:18

200 ml 1.5% milk

The problem with this is that it doesn't mention the most vital thing that you are trying to convey and that is that it is 1.5% fat. These days there are many types of food processing. This could perhaps be some indicator of how much lactose there is (I'm not an expert on lactose or milk but I know you can buy lactose reduced milk).

Therefore I think you have to write

200 ml 1.5% fat milk


200 ml milk (1.5% fat)

  • I've retracted my close vote now that the question is clearer. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 10:59
  • This is - completely wrong, Chas. (Assuming the question is about US usage.) It is absolutely commonplace, indeed the norm, to refer to milk as "2.5 milk" or "2.5% milk". This very much applies to the printing on packages, and indeed spoken language. – Fattie Aug 31 '15 at 11:55
  • FTR, apart from the fact this answer is wrong, the first phrase you suggest "1.5% fat milk" doesn't really work, I don't think. it reads (to a yank) as some time of milk called "fat milk" (it suggest a product like "buttermilk" or perhaps a brand name). I'd go with 1.5% fat-content milk for that type of format. – Fattie Aug 31 '15 at 12:01
  • I didn't know that. It just goes to show that we sometimes need to make clear which variety of English we mean. I still maintain that in terms of English language (which this website is about), more context is needed. I see it as a deficiency in the labelling conventions in the USA. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 12:04
  • @JoeBlow - Your suggestion of, '1.5% fat-content milk' is really good in my opinion. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 12:09

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