What’s in a label?

Food labels contain information on ingredients and nutritional elements of products and help us select among different foods. Given that Greece is a member of the European Union, laws on food labels are based on community legislation included, since 2014, in EU Regulation 1169/2011.

More specifically, a label contains the following:

Information required by the law

Product sales name

A food product sale name is the name prescribed to a specific product under the provisions of the European Community. In the absence of national or community provisions, the sale name is the customary name used at the member-state in which the food is sold to the final consumer or to mass caterers. Moreover, the sale name may also include a description of the food and, if necessary, a description of its use which shall be sufficiently clear and shall enable consumers to know its true nature, in order to distinguish it from other products with which it might be confused.

Ingredients 

Ingredients, including additives (i.e. ingredients that are added to the food for technological functions) are provided by order of weight, according to the quantities used in the preparation of the food, starting from the ingredient that is included in the largest quantity and ending with the ingredient that is included in the smaller quantity. All ingredients that are characteristic of the product or appear in the packaging images must be mentioned with their respective content amount in the list of ingredients. Moreover, all ingredients with allergenic effect (cereals containing gluten, nuts, milk, soya, shells and crustacean, fish, sulphur dioxid –above 10mg/kg or litre, celery, mustard, as well as by-products thereof), must be stated. Also, the presence of genetically modified organisms or ingredients of foods produced by genetically modified organisms must be stated on the label. On the contrary, there is no requirement as to relevant labelling in foods (not yet fully clarified by community provisions) such as meat, milk, and eggs of animal origin e.g. fed with genetically modified feedingstuff.

Example:

 

NUTRITION FACTS

(mean)

Per 100 g

Per serving

(1 slice=18g)

Calories

94kcal/393kJ

17kcal/71kJ

Proteins

13g

2,3g

Carbohydrates

(of which sugars)

6g

1g

1,1g

0,2g

Fat

(of which saturates)

2g

1g

0,4g

0,2g

Fibre

0g

0g

Sodium

1g

0,18g

Salt

2,5g

0,45g

 

SMOKED TURKEY INGREDIENTS: Turkey Meat (70%), Seasoning, Water, Wheat And Potato Starch, Salt, Soya Protein, Glucose, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Sucrose, Emulsifiers= Disodium Diphosphate, Pentasodium Triphosphate, Stabilisers= Carrageenan, Xanthan, Powdered Cellulose, Acidity Regulator = Trisodium Citrate , Antioxidant= Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Lactylate , Flavour Enhancer = Monosodium Glutamate , Preservative = Sodium Nitrite, Heat-Treated Product, Smoked Greek Product. Of animal origin from third countries. Keep refrigerated at 2-4°C.

Information on substances with allergenic effect
Contains Wheat Starch, Soya. May contain traces of milk, celery, mustard, sodium sulphites and nuts.

Weight or volume

The label must provide the net weight or volume of the food (weight without packaging).

Period of minimum durability and storage conditions 

Information should be provided on the time period during which a food maintains its specific properties under appropriate storage conditions. It reads “Best before...” or “Best before the end of...”. In the case of foods that are highly perishable (e.g. cured meat, milk, cheese etc.) the relevant notice reads “Use by...”. And, respectively “After opening, store for 4 days in 2-4°C”.

Name and address of manufacturer 

Or seller and place of production or provenance, only if product labelling is such that the consumer may be mislead as to the identity of the manufacturer.

Instructions of use

Where it would be difficult to make appropriate use of the food in the absence of such instructions.

Lot number

“Lot” means a batch of sales units of a foodstuff produced, manufactured or packaged under practically the same conditions. This marking is optional in case the label shows the minimum durability date that is also used as lot number.

 

Information not required by the law 

Nutrition information: Nutrition Facts label

Companies are not obliged by the law to provide nutrition information, unless they use a nutrition statement e.g. “light” on the label or on a product advertisement. Of course, many companies provide such information voluntarily. When nutrition information is provided, specific regulations need to be followed.

Information must be provided in the form of value per 100 gr or 100ml of food. Moreover, nutrition information may be provided per serving, on the condition that the number of servings available through the packaging is also mentioned.

  • The food's energy value in calories (kcal) and kJ.
  • Quantity of proteins, carbohydrates and fat in grams (gr)
  • Optionally, quantity of sugars, saturated fat, fibre (edible) and sodium.

At the same time, a label may contain other, additional information on the quantity of other nutrients, such as polyunsaturates and mono-unsaturates, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals (metals and trace elements). The quantity of vitamins, metals and trace elements in foods are provided as a percentage of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

 

What does nutrition information mean?

Energy

The amount of energy (calories or kcal or KJ) yield by the food.

Protein

The total protein quantity included in the food. Protein is a necessary nutritional substance, important for the growth and regeneration of bones.

Carbonhydrates

The total quantity of carbohydrates included in the food. This also includes sugars and starch. Carbohydrates are the energy that fuels the body and must form the basis of your daily diet. If you have diabetes mellitus you must pay particular attention to the quantity of carbohydrates found in the foods you consume so that you may adequately allocate your total carbohydrate intake throughout the day to better regulate your blood sugar.

Fats

The total fat quantity included in the food. Fat is a necessary nutritional substance for your daily diet. Fats are divided in polyunsaturates, mono-unsaturates, and saturates. Your goal must be to reduce your intake of saturates and trans fat, as they are linked to cholesterol increase which, in some cases, may be the cause of various heart diseases.

Fibre (edible)

Necessary for good bowel function. Found mainly in whole grain food products, cereal, fruits and vegetables. Your goal should be to increase you fibre intake on a daily basis. For diabetes patients in particular, intake of foods that are reach in fibre contributes to better blood sugar regulation, while at the same time may help towards cholesterol levels reduction.

Sodium

The main ingredient of your familiar salt. It defines the quantity of salt found in the food. Each gram of salt contains approximately 0.40 grams of sodium. Therefore, to calculate the quantity of salt in a food, you can double its sodium content. Although sodium is a necessary element for our diet, increased intake may be linked with high blood pressure.

Vitamins, minerals (metals and trace elements)

Vitamin and minerals content must be indicated if found in quantities that exceed 1/6 (15%) of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) or if the packaging contains a nutrition claim about a vitamin, e.g. "rich in Vitamin O”. RDA is the estimated quantity that may sufficiently cover the needs of the average adult consumer. Certain food labels indicate content of Vitamin Α, which is very important for our vision, and vitamin D, that is important for healthy skin and our body’s defence system. As to minerals, you must pay special attention to calcium content, which is very important for the bones, and iron which you need to take to prevent anaemia. The table provides the RDA for vitamins, metals and trace elements.

Nutrition claims: What do they mean?

Many labels often contain nutrition claims. Let’s see what these are in detail.

Nutrition claim

What does it mean

Example:

Free

 

Extremely low content

Gluten-free

Contains <20 mg/kg gluten

Low

 

Refers to low content of a specific ingredient (<3%)

Low fat

Contains 3g fat per 100g

for solid food or 1.5g fat per

100ml for liquid food

Light

 

Refers to foods that are low in fat or energy (calories) or in any other nutrient compared to similar foods

Light food

The energy value of the food has been reduced by at least 30%

No added sugars

 

The food contains no additional monosaccharides or disaccharides or other food used for its sweetening properties. When a food contains natural sugars, the label must state that the food “contains natural sugars"

No added sugar

The food does not contain added sugars