NUTRITION INFORMATION ON FOOD LABELS – A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY?
Nutrition information on food labels is very useful and helpful for consumers; it is not a waste of time. In this essay I will write about the history of food labelling and later I will concentrate on consumers who should read food labels and those consumers who read the food labels. After that, I will focus on the importance and the advantages that information on food labels have. In the last part, I will write about problems that customers have when reading instructions on food labels. Food labels came legally to life in 1906. Everything started in the USA because the Food and Drug Act said that “food labelling is needed to protect consumers from economic harm to reducing consumer’s risk of chronic disease”. In 1993, the Nutrition Labelling and Education Act (NLEA) required mandatory food labelling on most products excluding coffee, spices, raw foods and take away foods. Regulations apply mostly to processed and packaged foods and require specific information on food labels like: name of the food, list of nutrients (fat, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fibre, proteins, vitamins A and C, some minerals, calories and Kilo calories), the name and address of the manufacturer, the place of origin, serving sizes, expiry date, nutrient content claims, health claims and information about Recommended Daily Intake (RDA) of nutrients while consuming 2000 calories. In the European Union, legislation on food labelling wants to protect, inform and help society to make knowledgeable choices. Every manufacturer should provide the required information to ensure that consumers will be satisfied when buying their products. Food labelling regulations help the consumer to buy safer food. People are more confident when choosing products if they know what a particular product consists of. Nowadays most of the nutritional labels are very advanced and show detailed information about each nutrient and ingredient. Consumers read the labels mostly to improve their intake in good nutrients (proteins, fibre, good fat, vitamins and minerals) and minimize intake of unhealthy nutrients (saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol) that a particular product contains. Those who experience cardiovascular problems, are overweight and obese or have type 2 Diabetes should read nutrition labels very carefully to avoid high intake of nutrients which are significant risk in causing or worsening the illness. Consumers who are allergic to certain foods use nutrition labels to find information about the ingredients that they must not to eat. The most common allergic foods are: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Some of the above foods may cause instant death or digestive problems like celiac disease or lactose intolerance. Also, the elderly people should read the labels to meet their dietary requirements, which differ from other age groups. Pregnant women should control their Vitamin A intake derived from animal organs and increase their intake in folic acid. Vegetarian and vegan groups will find nutritional labels very useful particularly about the proteins and ingredients derived from animals. Another group of consumer reads information on food labels for personal reasons, for instance to exclude genetically modified foods or religious reasons. Research findings in different countries show that significant amounts of consumers use nutrition information on food labels. Surveys done in the United Kingdom have shown that 58% of those interviewed use nutrition labels. Those people recognize their diet as an important part in their lives. 17% use the labels for nutritional advice. Another study in America has shown that society is interested in nutrition food labels and use them while shopping or at home. The research showed that people with more than high school education are more likely to read the labels. In Canada consumers with small financial income, the elderly...
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