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For proximate causation, see Proximate and ultimate causation. For proximate cause in law, see Proximate cause. For the linguistic sense, see Obviative.

Proximates are used in the analysis of biological materials as a decomposition of a human-consumable good into its major constituents. They are a good approximation of the contents of packaged comestible goods and serve as a cheap and easy verification of nutritional panels i.e. testing can be used to verify lots, but can not be used to validate a food processor or food processing facility: a nutritional assay must be conducted on the product to qualify said producers. Nutritional panels in the United States are regulated by the FDA and must undergo rigorous testing to ensure the exact and precise content of nutrients in order to prevent a food processor from making unfounded claims to the public.[FDA 1]

From an industry standard proximates include five constituents:[1][2][3]

  • Ash
  • Moisture
  • Proteins
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrates (Calculation)

Analytically, four of the five constituents are obtained via chemical reactions and experiments. The fifth constituent, carbohydrates, is a calculation based on the determination of the four others. Proximates should nearly always add up to 100%, any deviation from 100% displays the resolution of the chemical test i.e. small variations in the way each test is performed chemist to chemist will accumulate or overlap the composition make-up.

There are additional ingredients that may fall under the category of one of the five constituents. Carbohydrates for example include but are not limited to:

  • Dietary Fibers
  • Sugars
  • Sugar Alcohol

Whereas Ash includes but is not limited to:

  • Dietary Minerals (Sodium, Potassium, Iron, Calcium)
  • Vitamins (β-Carotene, Retinol, Vitamin D3 Vitamin D2, B Vitamins)

Although proximates do not give the entire nutritional assay, they are an inexpensive way to track deviations from the quality of foods.


  1. ^ "Labeling & Nutrition". Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (7. Nutrition Labeling; Questions G1 through P8). 
  1. ^ "Silliker Labs". Food Quality. 
  2. ^ "Covance". Proximate. 
  3. ^ "Eurofins". Proximate Testing.