Food Packaging: Don’t Believe all you Read

“Reduced fat”, “no fat”, “low sugar” – the list could go on. We’ve all been targeted by shrewd marketers in our weekly food shops, but today is all about setting the record straight.

It would be a gross overstatement to suggest that you should take information on food packaging with a pinch of salt (pardon the pun). However, with so many people in the world suffering from dietary problems (which lead to doctors visits, health insurance claims, etc.), some extra guidance is necessary to reduce the risks of falling into common traps.

Let’s now look at some of the common claims made on food packaging – and how you should interpret them.

Fat-free: the one that should be trusted

We’ll get onto some of the so-called less trustworthy labels shortly, but fat-free should be trusted – more or less.

Legally speaking, this has to be a food that does not contain fat. There are no ifs and buts around this; if it contains any fat levels, it cannot be given this label.

Unfortunately, there’s a caveat as we’ve been building up to. Food companies often remove the fat from a product but replace it with sugar. If you ever spot the “fat-free” label, head straight to the sugar quantities to see if that has been used to “balance things up”.

Low-fat and low sugar: the two with strict definitions

Again, there’s every reason to trust these two labels. Low fat and low sugar aren’t based on what a manufacturer constitutes as “low”; it’s a set guideline. A low-fat food has to contain 3g or less per 100g, while a low sugar one has to have 5g or less per 100g.

As we’ve already alluded to, try and read these labels together. If you spot food that is low in both, you could be onto a winner.

What about ‘reduced-fat’ or sugar’?

Now, let’s move on to the so-called problem duo. While the names of these labels can sound quite innocent, the devil is in the detail. ‘Reduced-fat’ or sugar means that the foods in question contain a minimum of 30% less fat or sugar than the original product.

As you may quickly realize, this doesn’t always result in a healthy end result! The standard product is generally regarded as the same product from the brand in question, so it hasn’t been unheard of for some “low sugar” foods to have more sugar than the standard option of a rival brand!

While shopping for food should be a fun experience, this is one of those instances where you need to exercise caution. As we’ve mentioned, some of the labels are perfectly innocent – and tell you exactly the information you need to know. However, others can border on the deceptive – and this is where looking at the small print on the back of the packaging will reveal the true meaning to your health.

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