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Food Labelling: Why Reading and Understanding is Important

Food labelling is the communicating information to the consumer. This term refers to the information regarding specific food product. This label includes five types of information

  • Identity of product
  • Net weight
  • Content list of product
  • Nutritional facts column
  • Ingredient list
  • A statement which gives the information about manufacturer

This label should not include any inappropriate claims. These labels instantly boost your knowledge about health or unhealthy products.

Food labels also tell us about

  • The food inside the packaging
  • Shelf life of food
  • Storage instructions

Purpose

The purpose of food labelling is to provide the information regarding certain product. This information helps us to choose our food.

This information also gives us the idea that how this product helps us for some common issues like weight loss, obesity, stomach problems, high or low blood pressure and diabetes.

It also helps us to maintain a healthy diet. This provided information also tells about the calories present in that specific product.

Importance

Food labelling is much important for many reasons and it is also a basic and legal requirement of a food consumer to select a healthy diet for himself to prevent any serious health issues like Food Allergies.

  • It helps us to reduce food wastage.
  • That informs us to choose the food.
  • It helps us to store the food.
  • That also helps us to use the food within its shelf life.
  • It also helps people to plan when they will consume it.

Labels

There are 4 different types of labels that are printed specifically on a product for the assistance of consumer.

These labels are:

  1. Allergen Labelling
  2. Nutrition Labelling
  3. Date Labels
  4. Storage Instructions

Allergen Labelling

The food manufacturers must print the allergens present within ingredient list of that specific product.

As its name shows that ALLERGENS are those specific substances that may cause any type of Allergy. This type of labelling usually located:

  • In Bold Letters
  • In changed colour of text.

These labels must be located at a single place so it can be identified easily by the consumer.

There are few specified substances those are allergens which cause severe kind of allergy:

  • Gluten
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Sesame
  • Peanut
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans

From many researches it is concluded that these few allergens cause 90% of food allergies and serious allergic reactions.

After these researches a law made, according to that law “An allergen is labelled on the product with the source of that allergen”.

So that those people having food allergy should read the label carefully and avoid the stuff that cause any harm to their health.

FDA guidance also stated that these food labels must be truthful and not misleading to the consumer.

Nutrition Labelling

From 2016, it is necessary to print food nutrition labels on the pack of food to assist the consumer to select the diet according to his need.

Back of Pack Nutrition Labelling

This label is printed on the back of pack. These labels include:

  • Amount of Energy
  • Quantity of Fat
  • Amount of Saturated Fat
  • Amount of Carbohydrates
  • Sugar content
  • Amount of Protein
  • Salt content

Nutritional labels must be presented in the above mentioned order started from Amount of Energy then Amount of Fats then Carbs then Sugar, protein and Salt.

As a guide, the nutritional requirement:

  • Energy requirement of a Man is 10,500 kJ to maintain health and weight.
  • Energy requirement of a woman is 8400 kJ to maintain health and weight.
  • Fat intake should be 70g per day.
  • Saturated Fat intake should be 20g per day.
  • Carbohydrates intake should be 260g per day.
  • Sugar intake should be 90g per day.
  • Protein intake should be 50g per day.
  • Salt intake should be 6g per day.

The above mentioned values may vary from person to person due to the difference in age, weight and health condition.

Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling

This label is printed on the front of pack which gives an overview of nutritional information.

It is mainly used to improve the public health. This label gives us information by Colour Coded Labelling System which helps to highlight the nutritional importance of packed food.

There are three types of colour codes which tell us the level of fat, sugar and salt content present in food.

  • RED- It indicates the high amount of fats, sugar and proteins. So we should try to avoid these products.
  • AMBER- It indicates the medium amount. So we should mostly use these types of products.
  • GREEN- It indicates the low amount of fats, sugar and proteins. So this type is a healthier choice for consumer.

There are few other nutrition labels:

  • High Caffeine Content: Must be labelled as Not Recommended for Children.
  • Additives
  • Flavours

Date Labels

Food products are must labelled by “Manufacturing” and “Best before Use” date.

It tells us the shelf life of product and helps us in the storage and usage of that specific product. These labels help in food safety and security.

There are some foods which are quickly expired and having very short life span.

Most of our tinned food included in this category after the opening of tin. Few more products lies under this category are:

  • Dairy Products
  • Beef Steaks
  • Mutton slices
  • Salads
  • Fishes
  • Juices

We should check the manufacturing and expiry date of the product before using it.

If the product is expired then its taste and nature might be changed and become harmful for human health.

Storage Instructions

Every product has its own specific storage condition. To ensure the safety of food we should always keep the food under its storage conditions.

There is a standard storage temperature for storing products in refrigerator i.e. below 5oC.

There is some specific storage conditions labelled on the food pack:

  • Store in cool and dry places
  • Refrigerate after opening
  • Keep refrigerated
  • Once opened use within given days
  • Store raw food separately from cooked foods

Conclusion

  • Food labelling is important in many aspects.
  • That is mainly helpful in food safety and security.
  • It also helps in preventing many health issues caused by food allergies.
  • It gives us huge nutritional information regarding specific food product.
  • Food labelling makes the choice of food easy for consumer.

Written by Syeda Wafa Zainab (BSc. Hons. Agriculture Food Technology), Institute of Food and Nutritional Sciences, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Punjab Pakistan.

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