Shopping for food is such an intrinsic part of our lives that it is almost an automatic process. Online or off, we tend to load our carts with stuff we need, seldom paying attention to the uber tiny words written on every carton/ bottle. Turns out, these little tables and words carry a world of information about the content. Here is a quick insight into how to read these food labels and why doing so is very important.
But first things first, what are food labels?
Food labels provide important information to consumers and assist them in making informed purchase decisions.
Keep an eye out for FSSAI Logo with license number, ISI mark for packaged drinking and mineral water and certain processed foods such as infant food etc, AGMARK for all agricultural produce, green dot for vegetarian food, brown dot for non-vegetarian food including eggs, logo for fortified food.
Check carefully for the list of ingredients. Pay a little more attention when reading up about allergy-causing ingredients, the common ones are casein, nuts, shellfish, soybean, gluten etc.
Check for the food additives artificial/permitted flavouring and colours (Class I preservatives are preferred over class II).
Serving size is another thing to watch out for. The label starts with the total number of servings per container, for that food. Remember, this is not a recommendation of how much of the food you should eat. If it mentions 1 cup, and all the information listed on the label pertains to a 1 cup serving. Also, most food labels don’t always break down information based on serving size but based on the quantity of the product (100g for a pack of biscuits, for example), which means you need to estimate what one serving of that food might be, calculate accordingly.
Go through the nutritional information or nutritional facts per 100 gm or 100ml or per serving of the product. You will (usually) see energy value in kcal; the amounts of protein, carbohydrate (quantity of sugar) and fat in gram (g) or ml; the amount of any other nutrient for which a nutrition or health claim.
The manufacture and expiry dates are two of the most important things to look for.
The date, month, and year in which the product is manufactured, packed or pre-packed is mentioned on the label. In the case of food products having a shelf life of more than three months, then the month and the year of manufacture can be found with the “Best Before Date”.
Instructions for use and how to store the product is also something one should not overlook.
It takes a little time to read the labels (tip: take a picture of the label and zoom it to read clearly) but making a habit out of it can help you identify exactly what you are consuming.
Remember, the smaller the font size of the ingredients, we recommend you pay bigger attention to what's in it.
In our next blog, we will decode the labels specific to JAMS.