What Information Is on a Food Label?
Voluntary food informationIncluding voluntary information on a food label is also regulated by the EU. It should not mislead consumers and should not be confusing. Moreover, voluntary food information should not be provided on the label to the detriment of space available for the mandatory information. Here are some examples of the kinds of voluntary information that are often included:
- The nutrition declaration is mandatory and has to provide the energy value and the amounts of fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt of the food. However, the nutrition declaration can also contain additional voluntary information regarding the amounts of mono-unsaturates, polyunsaturates, polyols, starch, fibre, vitamins and minerals .
- Front of pack (FOP) nutrition labelling represents ‘simplified nutrition information provided on the front of food packaging aiming to help consumers with their food choices’ , eg, the ‘Choices’ logo or the UK traffic light system or the Nutri-score system (see below).
- Nutrition and health claims, namely statements that highlight certain beneficial properties of food, can be used by food business operators if their foods meet the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods[2, 4]. For example, ‘low fat’ is a nutrition claim whereas ‘Iron contributes to normal cognitive function’ is a health claim authorised in the EU.
- In the EU, there are various voluntary food labelling schemes that are managed by private or public organisations and that provide information about the food that consumers buy (eg an organic label like the Soil Association Organic, an animal welfare labels like Ètiquette Bien-Être Animal or a food quality label like the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)) .
In summary, what do food labels tell us?Labels and their positioning on pack may vary by product type or by country. However, food labels in general help answer these questions:
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- Information that can help identify the food like the name and description of the food.
- Information regarding the contents of the food and their quantity, such as list of ingredients, information on any allergens, the quantity of ingredients and the net quantity of the food.
- Information relevant for food quality such as the date of minimum durability, or food safety like the ‘use by’ date.
- Information about any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use for the product.
- Information about the country of origin or place of provenance.
- Information on energy value and the main nutrients (eg fat, carbohydrate, sugar, protein) is included in the nutrition declaration.
- Several voluntary nutrition labelling systems are used to inform consumers about the levels of the main nutrients (eg traffic light labelling).
- Logos can be used to give summary information about the healthfulness of food products (eg choices logo, keyhole logo).
- Some information emphasises a certain nutrient or health benefit that the food has. These are nutrition or health claims.
- Information on the sustainability-related benefits of the product, such as organic production, fair trade logo or animal welfare certification.
Understanding Food Labels
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