The most important job for any food label is to tell you exactly what the food is. The label has to tell you if the food has undergone any kind of process such as being smoked e.g. smoked mackerel, or dried e.g. dried apricots etc. The pictures should not be misleading, for example, a yoghurt that has only raspberry flavouring must not have a picture of a real raspberry on the packaging.
The law also states the name should not be misleading, for example, whenever the name of the food contains the word “flavour”, the food does not have to contain any of that ingredient e.g. smoky bacon flavour crisps, however, a food that is labelled cheese and onion pasty must contain cheese and onion.
Labels on all foods list the ingredients in descending order of weight.
The dates marked on the labels are an important safeguard against food that may be unfit to eat and they help us maintain food safety and hygiene. The “use by” date mark is for highly perishable goods, which would become a severe health risk if eaten after the recommended date. The term “best before “means exactly that. It would not be dangerous to eat that food after this date but it would indicate that it is perhaps past its best.
Reading food labels can be very confusing and one of the most contentious issues is whether a food product is high or low in fat. To assist you with this process you can apply the fat formula which will enable you do decide whether an item really is low fat.
The fat formula for calculating low fat foods is:
1 gram fat = 9 calories
1 gram cholesterol = 4 calories
1 gram protein = 4 calories
1 gram alcohol = 7 calories
As you can see food labels can be very confusing, but hopefully this has made it a little clearer.