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Understanding Food Labels

Learn how to interpret food labels so you can make informed food choices and buy food that supports your health and wellbeing.

5,652 enrolled on this course

A man and a woman are choosing between two tubs of icecream in a supermarket. The man is pointing at the label of one and the woman is looking at him questioningly.
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • Accreditation

    AvailableMore info
The CPD Certification Service

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. Find out more.

Get the facts you need to put your trust in the food system

Please note this course runs without facilitation

Huge amounts of information are provided on food product labels, but surveys have shown that we’re often unsure of its meaning.

On this course, you’ll learn how to make sense of the regulations, data, and logos on packaging so that you can make more informed food choices.

You’ll become more aware of what’s in the food you’re buying, the reference intakes for different people, and the nutritional value and environmental sustainability of different foods.

You’ll also gain a better understanding of food labelling regulations, as well as the claims food producers are allowed to make.

Disclaimer: The course content is for educational purposes only. Information and opinions contained in the course content are as of the release date 7th September 2020. In respect of any information or opinion supplied in the course content, this is provided in good faith, however no warranty or representation of any kind is made, given or implied, as to the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, completeness or sufficiency of any information or opinion except for the educational purpose of completing the course. Therefore, the course participant shall in all cases be entirely and solely liable for the use to which it puts such information and opinions.

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  • Week 1

    The what, how and why of food labels

    • What are food labels?

      Welcome to the course! What do we mean by food labels? What information do they contain and why?

    • How effective are food labels?

      Consumer studies indicate that shoppers find food labels confusing. What do they tell us? What don't they tell us? And do food labels matter?

    • Can we trust food labels?

      One of the purposes of food labeling is to make it clear where the product originated from. Why is this and why does it matter? Can we trust labels?

    • Review and Reflect

      Review this week's learning with a quiz and consider whether your buying habits have been affected by what you've covered.

  • Week 2

    What's in my food and is it good for me?

    • Decoding nutritional information

      There's a lot of nutritional information on an average food label, but working out what it means for you is quite a skill. We'll show you how to interpret the data and use it to help you make food choices that suit your lifestyle.

    • Using the ingredients list

      Discover what's really in your food. Do you know what your daily diet is made up of? What do the various chemical names and numbers mean and why are the lists so long?

    • Nutrition and health claims

      Learn to differentiate between nutrition and health claims and don't be misled by marketeers seeking to capture your attention. Find out how EU regulations protect consumers and discover some practical tools you can use.

    • Review and Reflect

      An opportunity to recap on a fact-filled Week, make sure you have the information you need to hand when you next shop, and think about how you might change your buying decisions.

  • Week 3

    How can I control the quality of my food and how it was produced?

    • Branding

      Welcome to Week 3 and a look at branding: its power and how to see beyond marketing messages to find the information you need.

    • Labels for sustainability

      Grapple with the complexities of using labels to help you buy food that reflects your values: how to prioritise sustainability, animal welfare and waste reduction.

    • Review and Reflect

      Recap the factors that affect consumers' decision making and gain practical tips on how to gather the information you need under pressure of time.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996 and is the leading independent CPD accreditation institution operating across industry sectors to complement the CPD policies of professional and academic bodies.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Interpret a typical food label - be familiar with the categories of information labels contain and why they are important.
  • Explore ingredients lists and discover your recommended daily allowances.
  • Compare trustworthy health claims and those inspired by marketeers.
  • Collect reliable information to base your buying decisions on.
  • Assess the complexities of labelling food according to production values such as sustainability and animal welfare.
  • Reflect on the limitations of food labels - what they don't tell you.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone who makes food purchasing choices and wants to learn more about what goes into their food, the health benefits of what they eat and the sustainability of how it’s produced.

The Educators won’t be able to join the discussions themselves or respond to individual comments, but the course encourages a strong learning community. The learning is focused around debate and discussion – supporting other learners, sharing your own experience and knowledge, and listening to new perspectives. We hope that you will enjoy interacting with and learning from each other in this way.

What do people say about this course?


"It was good to have access to the science behind the various labels, logos and regulations."

Who will you learn with?

I am a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading. I am a food scientist interested in developing new healthy and sustainable foods.

I'm a PostDoc at Aarhus University in Denmark. My main interest is in research on consumer behaviour towards food. I focus on food labelling, food choice and sustainable behaviour.

I'm a food engineer involved in EIT Food projects working in the School of Agriculture, Policy & Development at the University of Reading. I've experience working in industry-academia collaborations.

Who developed the course?

EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology strengthens Europe’s ability to innovate by powering solutions to pressing global challenges and by nurturing entrepreneurial skills in Europe’s largest innovation ecosystem.

Endorsers and supporters

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