Do You Really Know What is in Your Food? A Guide to Food labelling

DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT IS IN YOUR FOOD? A GUIDE TO FOOD LABELLINGFood labelling is an essential tool for the brand to communicate with the end-user. The label provides critical information about the contents of the packaging to the customer and warns them about potential allergens. That way, consumers are aware of the product they are buying and whether it is safe to consume.

Considering that food items directly correlate to a person's health, food labels are highly regulated across countries. From food ingredients to the manufacturing process, everything has to be included in the label for the benefit of the end consumer. The FDA is in charge of food safety and defines the requirements for food labels and advertising.

Here is everything you need to know about food labelling, what to look for, and how to read a label.

What Is Food labelling?

Food labelling is the practice of giving relevant information to consumers about the content, name, and ingredients of a food product. This helps consumers make informed choices about the food they purchase and avoids misinformation. 

The label on a packaged food product tells consumers what the product is made of, how it was produced, and the other characteristics of the product, which are relevant to its quality and safety.

It also makes consumers aware of the various health issues associated with some of the foods. Food packaging labels have to be carefully designed and printed to make sure that information is passed on to the consumer in a way that's easy to understand.

Why Is Food Labelling Important?

Although most consumers are aware that there are many 'unknown' food allergens, there is a misconception that they are harmless and do not have a negative impact. Often symptoms are not visible immediately, and the effects will be felt after a considerable amount of time has passed. 

The onset of food allergies tends to take place at a later stage of the gastrointestinal tract, for example, after several hours, or even days, of exposure. In order to avoid this, consumers should be provided accurate information to protect themselves and their families. 

What Information Is Provided By Food Label?

It is always a good idea to consult the correct government-approved label for a product consumed regularly. Consumers should look for the certification of food safety and environmental protection that is on the packaging. 

To illustrate, the labelling of biscuits will show that biscuits are made from eggs, milk, and flour. However, the label also notes that the product is made in a facility compliant with strict food safety guidelines. 

Similarly, a baby food label generally says it is made from whole foods from the earth. It also specifies that the food is prepared in a facility that complies with stringent food safety guidelines. We also have products such as dairy, with labels specifying which animal has been used to make the product.

Apart from this, a food label will have comprehensive information covering details like manufacturing date, expiry date, ingredients, food constituents, and more such information.

How to Read a Label?

A quick look at the food label will tell you whether the item is safe for you to consume, how much calorie intake it provides, nutritional value, and more. Here is a list of some critical information provided by a food label.

Expiry Date

Every food brand must mention an expiry date in the label, after which the product is deemed unfit for consumption. This date varies from product to product and thus has to be mentioned clearly on the label. Brands need to ensure that the product stays fresh and fit to consume till the expiry date.

The best practice is to use the FDA Standards for food additives to maintain that shelf life. The range of food products and ingredients that have a set time to display their expiry date is vast, and most products are marked with an expiration date on the bottle or package.

Ingredients and Nutritional Information

Ingredients in foods are generally required to be listed and have a readable scale. According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the scale is indicative of the amount of the ingredients and how much of it can be consumed. This information will be relayed in the form of serving size and nutritional value per serving.

In the US, the FDA requires that the labelling is in line with the guidelines and requires specific language to educate consumers about the ingredients. These regulations are more flexible for foreign companies if they have an established presence in the country, say, a trademark registration. A food label must identify the source of food for the purpose of authentication.

Allergens and Other Ingredients

Certain ingredients, mainly those that cause allergies, must be labeled on the food packaging. For example, peanuts, tree nuts, and fish, which contain these allergens, need to be noted on the food packaging.

Allergens like eggs, dairy products, nuts, and gluten pose a real risk to a person who has a food allergy. These ingredients are also some of the most prominent causes of food spoilage and food poisoning. These are often found in foods such as bread, pasta, and bread rolls.

Food warning labels usually display warning signs to alert customers to allergens in the products they are buying. Many brands use varying labels based on specific allergens and warnings.

Now that you know what to look for on the food label, we hope you are more careful with the products you purchase. Giving the label a quick read will not only save you from any health complications but also give you an idea about whether the item is regularized or not.

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