Why should we read food labels?
In our pursuit after shopping, we often forget to check the information on the food packaging we intend to buy, thus leaving out of view a number of important information about the products to be part of our diet.
Reading the label should become a habit, and to encourage this, Romalimenta (Federation of Food Industry Employers) explains why this is important and what are the main pieces of information that we should follow. First of all, we must know that the food label means "any mark, mark, sign, image or other description written, printed, stamped, marked, engraved or printed on a food product or attached to the packaging or container of a product", so as specified by Regulation (EU) no. 1169/2011 - regulation based on which the labeling of food products is carried out. The role of the label is to inform consumers correctly and as fully as possible about the main content and characteristics of the food, in order to ensure a high level of health protection and their interests.
Here are the most important information to consider when choosing a food product:
1. List of ingredients: gives us information on the identity and composition of the product. In order to have a more complete picture of what we are going to put in the shopping cart, it is good to know the following:
- the ingredients are mentioned in descending order of their quantity, so we will have the highest weight ingredients at the beginning of the list, and the lower weight ingredients at the end of the list.
- for some ingredients is mentioned the proportion in which they are found in the food, according to the legislative requirements, the mention being made in percentage.
- the type of oil or fat in the product recipe is clearly indicated, for example: "sunflower oil", "olive oil", "palm oil" and not simply "oil" or "fat"
- the presence of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats in the product is explicitly mentioned in the list of ingredients, if they exist in the product. We must know that the formulation "partially hydrogenated fat" actually means the presence of trans fats in the food.
- some ingredients are written in distinct letters from the rest of the list of ingredients (capital or thick letters); these are the ingredients with the potential allergen, ie those substances that can cause allergies to the predisposed persons (MILK, EGG, WHEAT, SOY, NUT, NUT, etc.); people suffering from allergies or food intolerances should avoid these products. The new European labeling regulation requires buyers to be informed about the presence in the composition of allergens and for products packaged at the place of sale, for example, confectionery, pastry or served in public food premises, an obligation not included in the old legislation on food labeling.
- sometimes, at the end of the list of ingredients we can meet the wording: "it may contain traces of peanuts, egg". This formulation indicates that the product in question, although it does not contain in the recipe those ingredients with potential allergen, was processed in a factory where such ingredients are commonly used and, with all the precautions taken, their presence cannot be completely excluded. unintentional in the product. Allergic people should avoid the product or use it cautiously.
- the additives used in the products are specified with the name of the category to which they belong and the name of the respective additive, for example: "emulsifier (sunflower lecithin)". Only verified and authorized additives, safe for human consumption and only in quantities strictly necessary for the realization of their technological role, are used in food recipes.
2. The term of validity it must also be part of the "routine checks" of the product before purchase, and it may be presented differently:
- In the form of the date of the minimum durability, when the expressions are used: "To consume preferably before ..." (when the date also contains the indication of the day) or "To consume preferably until the end ..." when the date consists only of the moon.
- In the form of the consumption limit date, when using the form "Expire to ..."
The difference between the two formulations is important, in the first case, the products can be consumed safely and shortly after the date indicated on the packaging, but it is not recommended to consume after the date indicated on the packaging of the products for which the formulation "Expires to ..." is used.
Generally, the date referred to is printed or stamped on the surface of the package.
3. Storage conditions: it is mentioned only for products that require special storage conditions, and the mention is usually made in the continuation of the validity term.
By complying with the regulations imposed by the competent authorities, food producers provide useful and important information for consumers and provide the basis for informed purchasing and consumption decisions.)
Romalimenta Federation, the unitary voice of the food industry
The Romalimenta Federation groups employers and companies from all branches of the food industry, together with large processing companies, domestic and international. It is the unitary voice of the sector, with legally recognized representation and signatory of the collective labor agreement on the branch.
The major objective of the federation is to support the rapid development of the Romanian food industry in the context of the European Union market.