The name or description of the food, manufacturer’s
name and address, place of origin, any special storage or
cooking instructions, information about certain processes
used in manufacturing such as pasteurised, dried, frozen,
concentrated, smoked. Nutritional information is sometimes
included, but isn’t required by law unless the manufacturer
claims a product is for example 'low fat' or high fibre'.
food products are allowed to be sold by volume, others are
sold by weight. An ‘e’ symbol next to the weight
means that an average weight must be accurate, but the weight
of each pack may vary slightly.
Use by dates are for highly perishable foods and
it is illegal to sell food after this date.
before dates are used on less perishable foods. Food
eaten after the date displayed may not be dangerous but will
be past its best. Both assume that food has been correctly
by or display-until dates are also used however it is
not an offence to sell food past this date.
Ingredients, including additives, must be listed in descending
order of weight. From February 2000, products will also have
to declare the percentage of their key ingredients, for example
the amount of fish in a fish cake or lemon in a lemon meringue.
labels don't tell us.
say they often find labels confusing and difficult to understand,
and it's easy to see why. Despite some welcome moves from
government and food manufacturers to tighten up on misleading
labels and provide more information, in too many cases it
is still possible for manufacturers to pull the wool over
food and drinks are exempt from having to list their ingredients
at all while you can be kept in the dark or easily misled
about a whole host of other information, such as the way food
has been produced or what nutrients it contains. Even when
food is labelled, the information given is not always clear,
easy to understand or complete. For example:
words - such as 'traditional', 'farmhouse',
'original', 'special', 'selected' and 'wholesome' all aim
to reassure us about a food's origins or persuade us that
we are buying something ‘natural’ or a little
bit special. But without any further explanation, these are
of origin - 'British' bacon can be made from
imported pork, 'English' butter can be churned from imported
milk and olive oil 'bottled in Italy' need not be made from
Italian olives. That's because labels can declare the 'country
of origin' as the place where the food last underwent a 'substantial
information - Companies aren’t obliged
to tell you how much fat, sugar or salt is in their food (unless
they make a claim such as ‘low fat’). Many do
provide some information, although shoppers say they often
find the way this is presented is unhelpful and confusing.
claims - Terms such as 'no added sugar' and
'low fat', or claims for added vitamins and other mysterious-sounding
ingredients that promise to 'maintain a healthy heart', 'reduce
cholesterol' or 'aid digestion', persuade us to believe these
products are good for us. But treat such claims with caution.
There are few regulations covering their use, which makes
it hard to judge the products with genuine benefits from those
that are pure marketing hype. Claims can also be used selectively
– for instance, a breakfast cereal claiming to be 'low
in fat' may also be high in sugar and salt.
ingredients - Products labelled 'No added sugar'
may contain all kinds of other sweeteners such as fruit juices,
syrups or honey, which are just as sweet and tooth-rotting.
Allergy sufferers may find it hard to spot 'hidden' allergens
– for example, peanut oil may be labelled as 'vegetable
oil'. Also bear in mind that not all ingredients derived from
genetically modified crops need to be labelled.
all they seem
- Fish ‘steaks’ can be made up of offcuts
and flakes of fish, blended and reformed. Similarly, 'smoked'
haddock may have just been soaked in a 'smoke flavour' solution.
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of serrano ham and Spanish foods.