As we peruse the supermarket shelves we’re all aware that food products contain labelling. We notice the similarities and differences and sometimes have our heads turned by a particularly attractive design but, how much do we really know about food labelling and the purpose it serves?
Many of you might not realise that labelling is everywhere. From food to cleaning products, product labelling can help us to identify the list of ingredients, how to store the product and any warnings to be aware of.
We see a range of different labels everyday but why are these labels so important?
How Does Food Labelling Help Me?
First and foremost, if you have food allergies or are feeding someone with food allergies then you need to know whether those allergens are contained in a product you are purchasing. You may also wish to know if the product has been produced in a factory containing those allergens. Ingredients such as eggs, nuts and soya will always be labelled for your safety.
Nutritional information is provided on food packaging to enable people to make informed choices about what they are eating in terms of its nutritional value. Consumers are able to monitor how much fat, saturated fat, salt and added sugar they are eating by checking the labels.
Information is provided per 100g and sometimes per portion. This level of information is particularly important for people who are trying to lose weight, people with health problems that can be adversely affected by diet e.g. heart disease, and families with young children who wish to limit the salt and sugar content of their diet. There will also be information on the content of kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal) which indicates the amount of energy contained within 100g of the product.
Labelling is also useful if a consumer wishes to compare one product against another. Some larger supermarkets choose to add nutrition labels to the front of packaging to help their customers decipher at a glance how healthy a product is. The traffic light system is particularly useful for this purpose. Green indicates low levels of fat, sugar or salt and red indicates high levels.
Some producers choose to add tamper seals to packaging so that consumers can be confident that a product has not been interfered with. This can be achieved using a labelling machine.
At a very basic level, food labelling tells us what a product is, whether it is fresh and helps us decide whether we are likely to enjoy it!
What Is Required By Law?
By law all food packaging labels must contain the name of the food, be clear and easy to read, permanent, easy to understand, easily visible and not misleading.
A use by or best before date must be applied to all food. A use by date is applied to food which could pose a health risk after a certain date such as meat or fish. In addition to the use by date, consumers should pay attention to the storage requirements such as ‘refrigerate’ or ‘eat within three days of opening’ in order for the use by date to apply. A best before date refers to quality rather than safety. A food beyond its best before date won’t be harmful but may lose taste or texture.
Food containing substances such as sweeteners, additives, raw or unpasteurised ingredients must carry a warning as these may pose a health risk to some members of the public. In addition, the quantity of contents must be identified on the food label as must the name of manufacturer, packer or seller, storage instructions and if necessary, cooking instructions. If food packaging is making a health claim or if vitamins or minerals have been added, details must be included on the label.
Of course, design does come into play with food labelling, but now you have an overview of the requirements insofar as what MUST be on there, you should be able to ensure that your customers are informed as well as attracted to your product.