A trip to the supermarket can be very confusing when you start looking at the labels on food items. However the labels give you fantastic information to ensure that you and your children are eating the right foods. Why don’t you get a couple of food items out of the cupboard and read the food labels with your child? You could get a food that is good for you and compare with one that is less healthy for you to show your child the difference.
On each label you should look out for the following information.
- Allergy advice – This will help people who need to avoid certain foods due to allergies or intolerances. The most common food allergies are nuts, wheat, dairy and gluten. If you have a family member with an allergy it is recommended that you also read the ingredient list. You can find out more about food allergies and intolerances by visiting the allergies page.
- Ingredients – This shows what is actually in the product you are buying. Ingredients are shown with the biggest weight of food first then in descending order.
- Nutrition information – You can see the energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat information in this section. Manufacturers may also include sugars, fibre, saturates, vitamins, mineral and sodium information in this section.
- Use by/best before – You will be able to see either a ‘best before’ date or a ‘use by’ date. Best before means the food should not go stale before that date. Use by tends to be on products which go off quickly such as milk, meat and cheese. It is important that you do not consume these products after this date as they may not be safe to eat.
- Storage instructions – You may see storage instructions such as ‘keep refrigerated’ and ‘store in a cool, dry place’. If specific storage is not required then this will not be included.
- Contact details – The food label should include the name and address of the manufacturer, seller or packager. This provides you with a way of contacting the company if you are not happy with the product.
- Size – The weight or volume of the product will appear on the label. It may have a large letter ‘e’ after it. This means that the weight of each pack may vary slightly and the weight figure is an average.
- Health mark – The health mark identifies food through the food chain for health and safety control. It shows that the product meets European Community requirements.