How to Make Sense of Confusing Food Labels

Food labelling laws are due to be overhauled in the coming years. From now until 2016, a litany of new regulations and tightening laws are coming into effect to help consumers understand the food that they are buying for themselves and their family. The current standards and regulations have contained rulings and determining factors that have stood for the best part of a century. As greater measurement technologies and techniques have been perfected; more accurate labels can be produced.


In the wake of the horse meat scandal; food labelling has become a hot topic for food professionals and consumers alike. Whilst the new labelling laws are designed to add clarity and provide peace of mind, it could be upwards of three years until they come into effect. This means that consumer confidence may be low for the next few years and could impact upon sales in the industry.

Additionally, this makes it vitally important for consumers to understand all aspects of food labelling and their implications. Whilst the ‘Traffic Light’ colour coding may seem simple to comprehend, the system does not include all of the vital information. Here are a few tips to accruing all of the necessary information from food labels.

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While the front of pack labelling shows the basic content of the food, the important information isn’t necessarily included. The ‘Traffic-Light’ labelling has been implemented to help conquer the problem but could in fact make the issue worse by presenting consumers with ‘at a glance’ figures. They have taken away the significance of reading the back of packets, which provide customers with important information. The overall calorie content is provided to consumers on the front of the packet; however, the calories from fat are illustrated on the back. The labelling therefore presents an unhealthy option as favourable.

Food manufacturers have found new ways to elevate the problem they are faced with and clever wording that is extremely misleading is a common way of circumventing the labelling restrictions. Adding a micronutrient and claiming the product has extra vitamins and minerals is hoped to deter people from reading the nutrient labelling and focusing on the information present on the front of the pack. The real information consumers should be focusing on includes, calorie, fibre, sodium and fat content. However, marketing schemes are employed to divert the customer’s attention to essentially make more sales.

[box]Author Bio: Strawberry Standards provides food safety regulation training and implementation for production companies. Concentrating on all aspect of food safety; Strawberry Standards are the standard bearers of the food industry.[/box]

One thought on “How to Make Sense of Confusing Food Labels

  • April 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of the traffic light system.


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