Reading a food label

A huge range of health and nutrition claims turn up on food labels. Most of these claims are little more than marketing hype.

The review panel has recommended manufacturers should be required to substantiate any health claims they want to put on food labels. Unhealthy foods – like sugary fibre-flimsy cereals – would also be prohibited from carrying claims about alleged health or nutrition benefits.

The panel has also taken aim at words that imply health benefits – such as "fresh" and "natural". It's recommended these types of words should be defined in a code of practice, with a view to restricting their use if manufacturers don't play ball.

Label examples

Kellogg's Nutri-Grain declares it's fortified with iron, calcium and B vitamins. But the cereal also contains high levels of sugar and salt – and it’s low in dietary fibre.

Our product comparisons of cereals have found those that claim health or nutrition benefits don't necessarily stand up to scrutiny. Implementation of the review panel's recommendations will prevent manufacturers from making health claims for these products.

 

The same goes for products such as vitamin water that imply some sort of health advantage. These drinks are little more than souped-up lolly water containing huge amounts of sugar – up to 8 teaspoons in one serving.

The introduction of traffic light labelling will also help consumers see at a glance whether the fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium content of these kinds of products make them a healthy or unhealthy choice.

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