Food Labelling. Introduction. Information is provided on food packaging to help us choose between different foods, brands and flavours. There is a legal requirement for much of the information that is provided.
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Introduction • Information is provided on food packaging to help us choose between different foods, brands and flavours. • There is a legal requirement for much of the information that is provided. • As the UK is part of the European Union (EU), the laws regarding food labelling are based on EU community legislation. This legislation is going to be streamlined with changes expected by 2010.
What’s on a label? Name of food Ingredients Weight /Volume Date-mark Place of origin Storage / Preparation instructions Name and address Nutrition information
Name of food • The name of the food must be clearly stated. Some foods have made-up names, which give no information about what is in them or how they have been processed. In such cases, a description of the food must be given so that it is neither ambiguous nor misleading. • If the food has been processed in some way, the process must be included in the title, e.g. dried apricots, salted peanuts and smoked mackerel. • The name must also describe the differences between apparently similar products. For example, a ‘fruit yogurt’ must be flavoured using real fruit, whereas a ‘fruit flavoured yogurt’ can be flavoured using artificial flavourings.
Weight or volume • The weight or volume of the food must be shown on the label. Comparing the weight with the price of different brands enables consumers to make choices on value for money between brands. • Some foods, such as bread and pasta, are sold only in standard amounts. The actual weight of the product does not need to be exact, but must be within a few grams of the weight stated on the label. • The symbol e is used to show that the weight complies with the EU requirement for weight under the average system, i.e. the average pack is at least the weight declared. • If the product weighs less than 5g then the weight need not be stated.
Ingredients • Ingredients are listed in order of weight, according to the amounts that were used to make the food, starting with the largest ingredient and ending with the smallest. • All components, including water and food additives, must be included in the list if they have been added. • A new European Union (EU) directive has been recently implemented in the UK which which requires 12 food ingredients - milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts from trees (including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts), fish, crustaceans (including crab and shrimps), soya, wheat, celery, mustard, sesame and sulphur dioxide – to always be clearly labelled.
Ingredients • If an ingredient appears in the name of the food, the quantity of the characterising ingredients must be declared as a percentage. This is required as part of EU labelling law, and is known as a Quantitative Ingredient Declaration (QUID). • GM ingredients • In April 2004 new rules for GM labelling came into force within the EU. The presence in foods of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ingredients produced from GMOs must be indicated on the labels.
Name and address • The name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller must be stated on the label. • This gives consumers the opportunity to contact the manufacturer if they have a complaint about the product or if they wish to know more about it. • You might also see health marks on some products. These are usually a code number and some letters, for example 'UK' and 'EEC', inside an oval mark. • Health marks are used mainly on meat and dairy products. They show that the food has been produced to the current standards of hygienic food production in licensed premises and allow food to be traced back to those premises.
Place of origin • The label must display clearly where the food has come from if it would be misleading not to show it, e.g. a tub of Greek yogurt which was made in France.
Date mark • Perishable foods that spoil quickly, such as cooked meat and fish, have a use by date. If kept for too long these foods can cause food poisoning even though they may not taste any different. • Other foods have a best before date, after which foods may not be at their best, with regard to flavour, colour and texture, even though they will probably be safe to eat if they have been stored according to the instructions on the labels.
Storage/Preparation Instructions • Information must be provided on how long a product is likely to last once it has been bought and/or opened, and under what conditions it needs to be kept to ensure its freshness. • When necessary, instructions on how to prepare and cook the food must be given on the label. If the food has to be heated, the temperature of the oven and the cooking time should usually be stated. Instructions may also be given for heating in a microwave oven.
Nutrition information • Manufacturers are not obliged by law to provide nutrition information, unless they make a nutrition claim. For those that do provide nutrition information, they must provide: • * The energy value in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal); * The amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat in grams (g). • Unless a claim is made, the amounts of sugars, saturates, fibre and sodium can also be optionally provided. • Information must always be given as values per 100g or per 100ml of food. Values for a portion or serving can be given as well, provided that the number or size of portions/servings is given.
Nutrition information Further optional information can be added, unless a claim is made, on the amounts of other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals (if they are present in significant amounts). The amount of vitamins and minerals in a food are given as a percentage of the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA). RDAs are estimates of the amount of vitamins and minerals sufficient to meet or more than meet the needs of groups of adults rather than individuals. RDA values are part of EU food law and reflect the variation in opinion across Europe. There is only one figure for each nutrient, derived from figures for adults, rather than a range of figures that vary with age, sex and physiological status as exists for UK Reference Nutrient Intakes or RNIs.
Nutrition information In the UK, some pre-packaged foods also provide information about guideline daily amounts (GDAs). GDAs are derived from the Estimated Average Requirements for energy for men and women aged between 19-50, of normal weight and fitness (2500kcal and 2000kcal respectively). GDAs are intended as guidance to help consumers in their understanding of their recommended daily consumption of energy (calories), fat and saturates and a base against which the content of individual foods can be compared.