The Taste Of The Mediterranean

Creating a life that is positively good for you...

Making Sense Of Food Labelling – And A Bit Of A Rant

The food industry is coming under increasing pressure to tell us what we are eating, and what food producers put in their products.

The traffic light system of food labelling has been adopted by some retailers. The obvious colour codes of red, amber and green are designed to advise consumers of the contents of foods, especially highlighting the dangers of saturated fat, and salt, whilst promoting the benefits of fibre etc.

Traffic light system food label

However, beware the oversimplification. Calories are not necessarily bad for you if you exercise. Total fat content is not as important as the ratios of good fats (Monounsaturated fats) to bad fats (saturated fats).

For example, an avocado or simple olives may be high in calories and fat per gram, but both of these natural foods are packed full of fine, healthy fats, vitamins and nutrients.

Another food labelling system describes the percentage of recommended daily allowance. For saturated fat and salt this usually represents the maximum advisable. The relationship between saturated fat and disease is such that it is believed the least amount of sat fat in the diet the better.

Recommended daily allowance food label

However, it is clear that food labelling is a simplistic and potentially misleading means of communication. Whilst is may be helpful in deciding the content of saturated fat in a piece of meat, and approximating the total quantities of salt, it is worth remembering that it by no means tells to whole story. As we know, goodness in food is not only about avoiding the unhealthy, but also identifying the “superingredients” such as antioxidants and other powerfully positive nutrients.

Supermarkets also produce ranges which claim to be good for you. You can make your own mind up about the ingredient list of this chicken product and sponge pudding, both in the “healthy” range of products of a leading supermarket; Perhaps they have 20% fewer calories...

Chicken dish ingredients;

White rice, water, dehydrated chicken (20%), modified maize starch, salt, tomato ketchup, onion, sugar, red pepper (2%), pasteurised egg, vegetable oil, dried skimmed milk, potato starch, stabiliser, xantham gum, white pepper, pectin, light soy sauce, colour (capsanthin), sweetener (aspartame), chicken stock, duck fat, dextrin, flavourings, chicken skin, maltodextrin, chicken broth, molasses, acidity regulator, lactic acid, potassium sorbate, pork gelatine and caramelised sugar powder.

And for desert – a “Healthy” sponge pudding;

Water, raspberries(22%), sugar, wheat flour, pasteurised egg, modified maize starch, dextrose, humectant, milk protein, whey powder, wheat starch, disodium diphosphate, calcium phosphate, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, mono and di-glcerides of fatty acids, rice starch, guar gum, xantham gum, salt and citric acid.