The trouble with food labelling

Have just read this DM article on the confusion surrounding food labelling. When I take my clients shopping I realise how confusing labelling still is to the average consumer. The other issue to throw into the pot is that the so called healthy wheels/traffic lights etc do not tell you the ingredients. For me its the ingredients that are more important than anything, so look at the BACK of the packet and see whats in the product. The front of the box will not tell you if the product has corn syrup, glucose fructose syrup, artificial additives, MSG, artificial sweeteners etc, or whether its sourced from GM products. Some manufacturers are getting more clever and changing the name of the ingredients to something that you might not recognise. If these ingredients are important to you, knowing how much protein is in the product may be bottom of your list of priorities. I think the key is common sense – if you buy one ingredient at time you know exactly what it contains. Here’s what I had to say about ingredients in a past newsletter:

Having just had a week off work I found myself meandering slowly round my local supermarket (I usually do a mad dash) and reading labels. I do this from time to time to see if anything has been easier for the consumer to understand. They are getting there slowly but to be honest I glazed over many products and thought if I didnt do the job I do I wouldnt have a clue whether this product was good for me.

I will therefore let you into a secret I tell all my clients – if its got more than ten ingredients in it, put it back on the shelves. If you buy produce one ingredient at a time ie broccoli, or frozen peas – you know there is only one ingredient in it, its when you get to packaged food it starts to get complicated. If you are confused with low fat, low salt, free from, natural, good for you, fresh etc I would instead look at the amount of ingredients on the back of the packaging. The highest amount of an ingredient will be listed first and the least last. This should give you some idea of the quality of the food. If you are prone to allergies/food intolerances the number of ingredients are important.

Take for example two popular packets of crisps.

One brand contains: Potatoes, sunflower oil, salt.

The other has: Potato starch, sunflower oil (30%), cheese flavour [whey powder (from milk), flavour enhancers (monosodium glutamate, disodium 5′ -ribonucleotide), flavouring, milk powder, cheese powder, butter acids, soya protein, colour (paprika extract)], rice flour, soya flour, salt, yeast, onion powder (malt flour from barley), pepper, wheat flour, colour (annatto).

I think you get my point!!! If you look at the above its quite obvious which bag of crisps is healthier and less allergenic. If the ingredients are kept simple then the product will be healthier.

Give label reading a go based on the amount of the ingredients on the packaging and let me know how you get on.

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