Have you ever been so curious as to know what exactly you are eating, what it is made of, or even the expiry date? I bet a lot of us do not have that time, we’re always so much in a hurry that we don’t care about the details printed on the food package. Unfortunately, some of us eventually fall victim as in the cases of allergic reactions, food borne diseases, etc.
WHAT A FOOD LABEL IS.
The most accepted definition of a food label is any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter, written, printed, stencilled, marked, embossed or impressed on, or attached to, a container (or package) of food or a food product. It contains a variety of information about the food item such as the nutritional value, ingredients, serving size, cooking instructions, storage conditions, manufactured date, expiry date, presence of any of any of the common allergens, etc.
Most packaged foods come with a nutrition label that provides you with the information necessary to know exactly what you’re eating. Understanding what exactly is in the food you eat helps you make healthier choices.
IMPORTANT COMPONENTS OF FOOD LABELS
- NUTRITIONAL LABEL
Food labels provide nutritional information about the food product such as; serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin content. The label also presents a list of the ingredients contained in the food product. The first ingredient represents the ingredient with the most amount, the second ingredient is the second highest amount and so on. This information helps you to know what is in the food you consume and also to know whether or not to avoid that particular food if you are intolerant/allergic to one of the ingredients, or you are following a diet that excludes certain components, such as dairy.
- DATE LABEL
The date labelling on food packages is related to optimal quality as well as safety. Most consumers get confused considering the variety of terms used with date labels, such as “use before,” “sell by,” “expires on,” and many more. Examples of common date labels include;
- Manufactured date: This is date the food product was manufactured or processed and packaged.
- Best before: This dateindicates when a product will be of best flavour or quality. It is the recommended date for best flavour or quality i.e the last day the product can retain its quality. After this date, the food may lose its freshness and nutritional value.
- Use-by/ expiry date:This date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is the last date the food should be eaten or used.
- Sell-By date: This tells the store how long to display the product for sale, this is essentially for inventory management.
Other components of a food label include:
- Batch Number.
- Product’s Brand Name.
- Manufacturer’s Address.
- Cooking instructions/direction for use, etc.
WHY CHECK FOOD LABELS?
- Checking food labels makes it easy for you to compare the nutrient content of different options.
- It also helps you make healthy food choices.
- Since food labels carry the ingredients in the food, it helps you to know if the product contains something you are allergic or intolerant to.
- It is important for safety reasons as some food products may get expired on the shelf. They may lead to mild or serious health complications if consumed.
Conclusively, a healthy diet is very important and paying attention to nutrition labels is a good step toward improving your overall diet.