Food Labelling 101
Food labelling is an important aspect for consumers across the globe. Food labels are used as reliable sources of information to help consumers make knowledgeable decisions. Consumers need to understand how to properly read and interpret food and nutrition labels.
What is on a Food Label?
Food labels will contain the following core labelling requirements in Canada:
- Ingredient List
The ingredient list must list all the ingredients in food by weight, i.e. starts with the ingredient that weighs the most and ends with the ingredient that weighs the least.
- Nutrition or health claims
Nutrition claims are considered optional on food labelling and must follow specific rules set by Health Canada to ensure the claims are consistent and not misleading.
There are two types of claims:
- Nutrient claims: describe how much of a particular nutrient is in a food, i.e. the high source of fibre
- Health claims: describe the effect of food on health and must be based on scientific evidence, i.e. Vitamin A aids in the development and maintenance of night vision
- Food allergen
Allergen information is mandatory to be included on food labels as part of the ingredient list or on a ‘Contains’ or ‘May Contain’ list.
- Date labelling
Prepackaged products with a durable shelf life of 90 days or less are to be labelled with date markings and even storage instructions.
Nutrition facts table (please see figure 1 below for reference)
The Nutrition Facts Table will give you information on the following:
- Serving size
- Percent daily values
- Information on 13 major nutrients; fat, fib
- re, saturated and trans fats, protein, cholesterol, vitamin A, vitamin C, sodium, carbohydrates, calcium, sugars, and iron.
Why is Food Labelling Important?
A few reasons for how food labelling can help the average consumer make the right purchasing decision:
- Nutrition/Dietary Intake
Food labels can help you understand the composition of your food via the information provided on the Nutrition Facts Table. The Nutrition Facts Table allows the purchaser to understand the type of vitamins, minerals, facts etc. that they will be consuming. By monitoring your intake of micronutrients and macronutrients, you will be able to eat a balanced diet for your body.
Food allergies are considered a rising, global epidemic. The proper comprehension of food labelling with regard to allergens is critical to avoid serious consequences. In Canada, common allergens and gluten sources must always be clearly declared on food labels when present as ingredients or components of ingredients. They will appear in the ingredient list or in a “Contains” statement located immediately after the ingredient list.
Origin information on food labels can be very important to consumers. For example, some consumers choose to purchase products from only local producers due to political or environmental motivations. Also, consumers are increasingly linking quality to geographical origins and traditions.
Many consumers are invested in how their food is prepared due to religious, ethical, and cultural reasons. Production details on food labelling may include information for the following types of products: Halal, Kosher, Organic and free-range.
- Compare and contrast products
Information is power and by understanding how to read and analyze food labels, the consumer has the power to take control of their own health. Food labels may be easy to ignore, but by taking a few extra minutes at the grocery store, will allow you to become more conscious of the products you are eating and may alter your purchases moving forward.
How Quality Smart Solutions can help
At Quality Smart Solutions, we have a team of experts who are skilled in both Canadian and USA food labelling compliance. We offer several solutions to meet your needs and understand the importance of food labelling. Please contact us today or call us at 1-800-396-5144 to learn about how we can help you.