Food labelling: What you need to know for the sake of your health

Once upon a time the labels used on food packaging were largely for marketing purposes. Then, regulations stepped in, and everything changed.

Of course, these regulations don’t just cover food – they relate to a whole host of other industries, even spanning as far as drugs.

Something that might surprise some of you is that these labels aren’t always what they are made out to be. In other words, interpretations can vary widely. This is the reason behind today’s article, as we take a look at some of the key messages behind food labels from the industry.

What does ‘natural’ mean? 

First and foremost, just ask yourself what ‘natural’ means to you. Does it mean pesticide-free? Antibiotic free? Organic perhaps? Well, here’s a newsflash – there’s every chance that foods attributed with this label aren’t any of the above.

This is arguably one of the biggest issues that is blighting the food industry nowadays. Manufacturers are quick to add the ‘natural’ tag onto a product, but the truth of the matter is that there is little governance behind it. There are ongoing petitions to ban its use and eventually, this could very much happen.

The scary differences between low and reduced sodium 

Something else that is spoken a lot in the media nowadays is sodium. Put simply, most of the world are consuming far too much of it – and it’s wreaking havoc with our bodies.

So, when you see foods with a “low” and a “reduced sodium” label, what do you think? It would be fair to say that the former provides a much clearer picture, as this means that the product in question contains no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving. In relation to reduced sodium, this is much vaguer. The product simply has to have 25% less sodium than its sister version that it has been created off the back of. Suffice to say, it’s a bit of a loophole.

What about ‘made with wholegrains’? 

Next, let’s talk about wholegrains. If you spot the “made with whole grains” label, its meaning is much different to “100% whole grain”. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but when it comes to the original label this simply means that the product contains “some” whole grains. In other words, it can be minimal, and the remainder of the grains within the product are those of the refined variety.

A final point about free-range eggs

Eggs are one food which have all sorts of labels attached to them, but for the purposes of today let’s just talk about the free-range factor. If you do spot some eggs with this label it simply means that the hens are able to roam freely outdoors.Unfortunately, this is somewhat the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the hens have “enough” room to stay outside, which is where the American Humane Certified label comes into play. If the eggs have this on as well, it means that the hens are all but guaranteed to be treated fairly.