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Can you trust food labels?

Have you ever been confused by the information contained in the labels on food?

Well, you’re not alone. The number of calories and the nutrients contained might be displayed but are you confident you can understand them properly?

Calls are now being made by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for better labelling following their findings from a recent study.

The results, which appear in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that people were able to understand the calorific and nutritional value of items if the labels stated clearly how many calories were contained in the entire product, as well as how many calories were contained per portion – the product obviously had to state how many servings it contained of course.

But not all food manufacturers paint a clear picture. They might state only the calories contained in one serving (without stating how many servings the product was intended for), giving consumers the impression that the calorific value was for the entire product! This way, the product appears healthier than it actually is. For example a large bag of potato chips might say it contains 100 calories. What they don’t say is that the bag is intended for six people. How misleading is that?

Clearer food labelling can only be a good thing. Surely consumers have the right to know the nutritional value of what they are buying – especially when it comes to assessing things like frozen meals or chips. That way, they might realise that these products contain very little nutritional value – if any at all!

In Britain, foods are labelled green, yellow or red on the basis of their healthfulness.

Doesn’t the US deserve a similar system?