Food labels on nutrition – confused?
Are you fed up with misleading food claims and back of pack nutrition information? According to market research by Neilson, 60% of consumers worldwide are confused by food labels. With the weekly food shop becoming a dreaded task. more work is needed to help people understand the pros and cons of the nutritional information.
Misleading food labels
Food labelled as organic, is perceived to be healthier according to research. In a comparison test, participants thought organic labelled food tasted lower in calories and fat, and perceived the foods to be higher in fibre. The non-organic labelled food was in fact, almost identical in terms of calories, fat and fibre.
The result of this is what’s called the ‘health halo’ affect and marketers use this to make foods seem better for you. So what other tactics make you think a food tastes healthier?
Green Vs Red
In the highway code, the colour green means GO and the colour red means STOP. But researchers have found these colours have a similar meaning in the food world.
People were shown images of chocolate bars labelled red and green, containing information about the nutritional value of the product, and asked to choose the least calories. The subjects felt that the green label indicated a more healthful product, rather than red, although the number of calories contained in them was the same.
This has huge implications on nutritional labelling as junk foods can hide behind green labels. In the US, M&Ms and Snickers have green front of pack calorie flags, a dirty tactic which consumers are more vulnerable to at the checkouts.
What food labels mean?
We looked at different food labels with terms such as low fat, high fibre, low salt and what they mean in terms of your nutrition.
[table]Food Labelling term, What does it mean?
Reduced Fat, Less than half gram of fat to its original
Light, 50% less fat/sodium than the original product
Zero Trans Fats, Less than half a gram of trans fat per serving
Cholesterol Free, Less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving
Lean, Less than 10g of fat; 4.5 g of saturated fat; & 95 mg of cholesterol per 100 g
Low Fat, 3g or less of fat per serving
Good Source of, Minimum of 10% of RDAs
High Source of, Minimum of 20% of RDAs
Free Range, Animals allowed access to outside
Organic, 95% organic ingredients
Natural, No added colour; artificial flavours; or synthetic substances
Low Sodium, 140 or fewer mg of sodium per serving
Multigrain, More than one type of grain in the product
Whole wheat, Food with whole wheat flour[/table]
Hopefully we’ve managed to shed some light on food labels and what they really mean when it comes to your nutrition.