You may have already noticed changes to food labelling as a result of new European legislation. If you haven’t, all labels will have changed by the 13th December this year (2014).
Food labelling is a useful tool to help inform us about our food choices. However, they can be misleading and confusing. A simple guide to the calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in a food can help people to compare similar products and choose options that meet their dietary needs. Due to the new European law, there is far greater consistency, no matter what the brand or supermarket chain the product is purchased from.
The changes you need to be aware of are as follows:
- The term ‘Guideline Daily Amount’ (GDA) will be replaced by ‘Reference Intake’ (RI), however the terms mean roughly the same. The main difference is that RI values are for all adults and don’t differentiate between males and females.
- Mandatory nutrition labeling on the front of pre-packaged food. Energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt will always be listed in the same order on the front of packaging. Additional information is optional.
- Normally, the nutrition information will be provided per portion however, the label has to provide information per 100g/ml.
- Salt will replace ‘sodium’ which is no longer permitted.
- Ingredients in the product are listed in descending order of weight.
- Allergen information must be emphasised in the ingredient list (14 major food allergens must be disclosed).
- No more references to gluten. If you are on a gluten free diet, you must search for the specific cereals containing gluten such as rye. This will be emphasised in the ingredients list.
- All health claims have to be approved by the European Food Standards Agency.
- Check food labels on a regular basis and use them to compare between food and meal options. For example, choosing between pie or pizza for dinner.
- The traffic light system on food labels is a UK only scheme that can help make informed food choices. However, be aware that some foods labelled as red may benefit your diet. For example, foods containing nuts, healthy oils or oily fish.