Can We Really Trust Nutrition Labels?

Can We Really Trust Nutrition Labels

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How many times do you catch yourself reading the nutrition labels whilst at the grocery store? Or maybe you’ve walked pass a food item with a big fat sticker on it saying “fat free” or “sugar free” and without thinking you’ve added it to your trolley? Have you every asked yourself the question, can we really trust these nutrition labels? Well we did and we’re here to give you all the answer. 

The nutrition information panel tells you the quantity of various nutrients that a food contains per serve, as well as per 100g or 100ml. When comparing one food product to another we suggest using the 100g or 100ml as serving sizes between products can differ.  The nutrition information panel provides information on energy (kilojoules), protein, total fat, saturated fat, total carbohydrates, sugars and sodium. However cholesterol content does not have to be listed unless a claim is made. 

When looking at items in the grocery store, don’t be misled by labeling tricks and traps. For example, I was walking through the grocery store only the other day when a box of cereal caught my eye, all over the front of the box were words such as fiber and wholegrain and overall this packaging looked extremely wholesome. Once I turned to the nutrition label I saw there was more sugar in the cereal than whole-grain oats, this product actually contained more sugar than Fruit Loops! 

The term light doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is low in fat or energy; it could refer to the texture, color or taste of the product. Claims such as ‘no cholesterol’ on foods derived from plants, like margarine and oil are pointless, as all plant-based foods contain virtually no cholesterol however can be high in fat. If an item saws its 93% fat free, it still contains 7% fat but it looks better to advertise it the other way. Baked not fried always sounds healthier but it may have just as much fat. The term fresh actually means the products hasn’t been preserved by freezing, canning, high-temperature or chemical treatment but it may have been refrigerated and spent time in processing and transport. 

Have you heard about nutrition content claims? Well its statements made about certain nutrients or substances in food, such as ‘high in calcium’. For a manufacturer to make various claims their products must meet various guidelines including:

No added sugar – products must not contain added sugar, but may contain natural sugars

Reduced fat or salt – should be at least a 25 per cent reduction from the original product

Low fat – must contain less than 3 per cent fat for solid foods (1.5 per cent for liquid foods)

Fat free – must be less than 0.15 per cent fat

Percentage of fat – remember 80 per cent fat free is the same as 20 per cent fat, which is a large amount

Good source of – must contain no less than 25 per cent of the RDI for that vitamin or mineral.

Health claims can also be made about a food product and relate to a nutrient or substance in a food, and its effect on health. There are two types of health claims:

General level health claims demonstrate the effect on a health function due to a nutrient or substance that is present in a food. ‘Calcium is good for bones’ is an exampleHigh-level health claims refer to a serious disease or biomarker and its relationship to a nutrient or substance according to scientific research. For example, diets high in calcium can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There are only 13 pre-approved high-level health claims that can be made in Australia.

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