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  • University of Reading

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.

5,697 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
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Digital upgrade

  • 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.
  • Reflect on ingredient 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.
  • Interpret 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.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge on this topic, you might also find of interest the following EIT Food courses on food, nutrition and science communication:

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.

Endorsers and supporters

content provided by

Tellspec logo

supported by

Aarhus University logo

What's included?

EIT Food are offering everyone who joins this course a free digital upgrade, so that you can experience the full benefits of studying online for free. This means that you get:

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Tests to validate your learning
  • A PDF Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you’re eligible
  • Learning on FutureLearn

    Your learning, your rules

    • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
    • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
    • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

    Join a global classroom

    • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
    • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
    • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

    Map your progress

    • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
    • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
    • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

    Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

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    Get a taste of this course

    Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

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