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The Hidden Truths Of Food Labels: What You Need To Know

In today’s fast-paced world, processed food has become an integral part of our daily lives. To ensure consumer safety and empower individuals to make informed dietary decisions, regulatory bodies in each country establish comprehensive guidelines for labelling processed and packaged foods. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FASSI) assumes this role, enforcing mandatory labelling regulations that are vital for both manufacturers and consumers. While labels offer crucial insights about the product, it’s essential for consumers to comprehend the information presented, enabling them to prioritize their health and safety.
Also Read: Placing Food’s Nutrition Label In Front Of The Package May Help Promote Healthy Eating – Study

Food Labels: The Components You Need To Know

Food labels comprise various components that provide key details about the product. As savvy consumers, understanding these elements empowers us to make healthier choices. Here’s what you need to look for:

1. Statement of Identity: Defining the Product

The statement of identity vividly describes the product’s nature. For instance, a container of cheese spread might read, “XYZ Cheese Spread – Crafted from 100% Pure Milk, Enhanced with Oregano.” This section might also include usage recommendations, such as “Bake, Spread, Dip.”

2. Net Weight: Gauging Quantity

The net weight, representing the product’s weight excluding packaging, should be prominently displayed on the front panel.

3. Manufacturer Information: Who’s Behind the Product

The label must identify the manufacturer, packer, or distributor. If these roles are fulfilled by distinct entities, the label should indicate both, e.g., “Packed for ABC by So & So.”

4. Manufacturing and Expiry Dates: Time Frames for Consumption

Essential dates, including the manufacturing and expiry dates, must be printed. Additionally, products might include a “Best Before” date, indicating the period of optimal quality.

5. Ingredients List: Breaking Down the Components

The ingredients list should encompass all added components, with the primary ingredient listed first, followed by descending order based on quantity. For blended products like sauces, individual components should be specified.

6. Nutrition Facts: Unveiling Nutritional Composition

The Nutrition Facts section reveals the product’s nutritional content. This information must be scientifically accurate. FASSI mandates specific details, including:
   – ‘Sugars’: Monosaccharides (e.g., glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (e.g., maltose, sucrose).
   – ‘Added sugars’: Monosaccharides and disaccharides incorporated for flavour.
   – ‘Fat’: Comprehensive lipid content, including saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats.
   – ‘Dietary fibre’: Inclusive of natural or added fibres.
   – ‘Nutrients’: Constituents that provide energy, metabolic functions, or support growth and well-being.

7. Nutritional Information: Serving Size and More

The nutritional information per 100g/ml or per serving must be provided. Moreover, the label should indicate the percentage contribution to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, calculated based on specific daily requirements.

8. Enrichment Claims: Nutrient Additions

If a product claims to be enriched with particular nutrients, the label should specify the quantities of these added elements, such as minerals, proteins, vitamins, amino acids, or enzymes.

9. Daily Value (%DV): A Nutritional Guideline

The %DV reflects how much a nutrient in a serving contributes to daily requirements. The range indicates its significance:
   – 5% or less: Low content (e.g., fats).
   – 10%: A source of the nutrient.
   – 15%-20%: A good source of nutrients.

Also Read: 5 Food Combinations That Can Help With Better Absorption Of Nutrients


Food labels share nutritional information about food. 
Photo Credit: iStock

Serving Size and Beyond – Understanding Portion Control

Serving size details, including the number of servings in a pack, help consumers understand portion recommendations. Serving sizes can be indicated in grams, millilitres, or common household measures. For accurate consumption calculations, it’s crucial to differentiate between serving sizes and net contents.

Cracking the Code: Demystifying Misleading Terms

FASSI has established stringent definitions for terms that can be misleading. For example:
– ‘Natural’: Reserved for single foods derived from natural sources, minimally processed.
– ‘Fresh’: Applicable to unprocessed foods, potentially peeled, cubed, or chilled.
– ‘Pure’: Limited to single-ingredient foods without additives or avoidable contamination.

This overview serves as a foundation for understanding food labels. Given the dynamic nature of labelling regulations, staying informed is essential for safety and transparency. As a nutritionist, I encourage patients to thoroughly review nutrition information, focusing on components like added sugars, fats, and serving sizes. By comparing ingredient lists to health claims, one can make more educated choices.

In conclusion, navigating food labels effectively empowers consumers to make health-conscious decisions. By deciphering these labels, you’re equipped to prioritize your well-being while enjoying the convenience of processed foods. Choose wisely and stay healthy.


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