What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

Zofia Patel, Journalist / Editor

We have all seen labels on our food before but have probably never cared for them. I mean, what are they for? Why are they there? Are they even that important in the grand scheme of things? Should they affect whether I buy something or not? Or should I just ignore them? These are all questions that come to mind when thinking of the labels on our food, and soon enough, they will mostly be answered.

There are a few different categories we can put these labels in. First, we have nutrition labels. The odds are that almost all of us have seen nutrition labels before. They are generally seen on the back or sides of the containers that food comes in. These labels were first introduced for industrial use in the 1970s by the F.D.A (Food and Drug Administration) but were still used before that, though only used on foods considered to be for ‘special dietary uses.’ These labels have four main parts: the first is the serving information (1). The serving information will tell you how many servings are in the food container and how much a serving is in cups and grams. The second part (2) tells the calories per serving. Depending on what you are eating, it will also tell you the calories the dish has with the added things. For example, if you are eating cereal it will give you all the nutritional information with milk added. The third part (3) gives some of the nutritional values. This tells you the amount of different forms of nutrients you can find in this food product. For example, you can find out how many grams of sugar or fat there are in this food product. They also tell you the different vitamins you can find in the product, such as potassium and iron levels. The last part (4) tells the amount out of a DV or the amount of the Daily Value you get from eating the food out of a 2000 calorie diet. For example, it will say 12% in the row that says potassium. This means that there is 12 percent of the total amount of potassium you need for the day in the food or drinks that you are currently consuming. Underneath such labels, you might also see the ingredient list.

The next category is the package labels. There are two types of these labels. The first is front package labels. These are the labels that pop out and make people want to buy your produce. These say things like lower calories and no added sugars. These labels are optional and not closely monitored by the FDA and are only there to improve sales. The other part of the front of package labels are the ones that are touched on by the FDA. These are nutrient labels and health claims. Health claims are anything to do with health and are backed by science and the FDA. These say things like this food will lower your risk of heart disease or any diet or health-related things. Then we have the nutrition content claims, which will say things like “low sodium” or “Fewer calories.” These are monitored by the FDA who makes sure they are factual statements. The second part of these labels are the side and back of package labels. These are very commonly thought of and looked at, such as allergy information and sell-by and use-by dates.   

The last group of labels are the ones that are pretty common but few know what they mean. First, we have organic labels. You may see small stickers that say organic or something like that. All this means is that the fruit or vegetable was grown without using pesticides to aid it. Another one of these labels are the Fair trade labels. These have less to do with the food product you are getting and more with how it was made and sourced. Fair trade basically means that the people who farmed for it have a fair life and that they are treated well and not abused.  

On a side note, all the colored squares or circles on the bags you might see are just there to signify the colors and hues the bag was made with.

There are many labels on different foods, and these can be both important and unimportant. It is essential to remember that they don’t always need to tell the whole truth and it is important to look at all of them first and consider them carefully and what they might mean for you and the people supplying the food. 




Understanding Food Labels