Do you trust food labels?

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Nowadays, I pretty much check the label of everything I eat- it’s a reflex action that I’m used to; my eyes can zoom in on those bold allergy warnings within 5 seconds, helping me understand whether I can pop it in my trolley. But, despite being rigorous, it can still be really difficult to find out what I’m eating and sometimes I’ll still feel poorly after eating something I thought was safe. Turns out I’m not alone- a recent study by Data Label  discovered that 31% of us do not trust the labels on pre-packaged food. And there’s good reason too, manufacturers can be very clever when it comes to wording the label. Here’s my 5 things to look out for…

1. Check for allergens

This is a bit of an obvious one: luckily things got much easier in 2014 when it became a legal requirement to mark allergens to milk, gluten, soya (and several other well known allergens). While we’ve started to feel a bit more confident, it is still important to check the label careful and be aware of the following:

-Labeling a product wheat free does not mean it’s gluten free.

-Labeling a product lactose free does not mean it’s milk or dairy free.

-Even if the product doesn’t contain the allergen, read the entire label as cross-contamination issues have to be included too (usually worded as ‘made in a factory that produces….’ ‘or ‘may contain’) If you are just a little sensitive, you may not need to take heed of such warnings. However, those with true allergies or coeliacs need to be super careful.

Still find that you are unwell after eating gluten or dairy? Well,  labels may not be as accurate as we think. A recent survey by the Food Standards Agency found that 3.3% of samples contained detectable gluten where that allergen was not present as an intentional ingredient and which did not carry an advisory.(Here’s the full study) Clearly, we have a way to go when it comes to feeling 100% confident with food labelling.

 

2. Watch out for the word ‘reformed’ 

This is a new word I keep seeing on food labels but the worst culprit has to be for sandwich meat. Although ingredients may look natural,  if your meat is reformed it means it’s been reconstituted from lots of scraps (basically the parts of the animals nobody wants) and made into a paste to then reform it into things like chicken roll and chicken nuggets. Sounds delicious, right/ As well as the quality of the meat being questionable, it’s also a concern as lots of fillers are often added to make the meat stick together and to taste like it’s fresh. Expect things like sugar, syrup and salt to be added. It’s much better to stick to 100% non-reformed meat.

3. Sugar

My diet is not 100% sugar free but I have started to notice how sneaky food manufacturers are about sugar. Did you know how many other fancy words there are for sugar? Cane syrup, glucose, fructose, raw sugar,  corn syrup, evaporated cane juice. Whether it’s ‘organic’ or ‘raw,’ they all essentially have the same meaning. No wonder we can’t trust it!

4. ‘Sugar free’

I just said sugar was the baddie so surely sugar free is practically angelic? Think again. Of course many healthy foods are naturally sugar free, such as veg, seeds and nuts. However, the ‘sugar free’ craze has done more harm than good. Sugar free products often include aspartame (a sweetener linked to a whole host of problems) or high fructose corn syrup (a modified food product made from corn and added to most junk foods)

5. The word ‘style’

Scary story:Greek yoghurt in its natural form used to be highly nutritious for those who can tolerate dairy. It was full of probiotics and calcium. However, to cultivate the yoghurt cost millions of pounds of specialist equipment which meant it was quite pricey. Because of this, UK manufacturers decided to cut corners. They took regular yoghurt, added a bunch of ‘thickeners’ (yes I don’t quite know what that word means even!) and voila it tasted as thick of original greek yoghurt. But because it bore no resemblance to greek yoghurt, the phrase ‘greek style’ was invented. Watch out for any phrases that include ‘style’ and indeed any food that has a high level of ‘modifiers’, ‘preservatives’ ‘thickeners’ and anything else that suggests it’s been messed with.

and one thing to not….

6. Calories

Taken from www.goodfoodeating.com

All calories are not created equal! If you are eating a healthy diet full of fresh, natural foods- the calories are irrelevant! Furthermore, some of the best foods to eat don’t have packaging: think fruits, veg and meat from your butcher. If you too find you are unable trust food labels then go one step further and go without labels all togetherr.

 

*This is a collaborative post.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Kris
    April 5, 2016 / 11:03 am

    This is such a good post 🙂 Thanks for going in depth and explaining everything. Crazy the thing about greek STYLE yogurt :0

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      April 5, 2016 / 3:05 pm

      ah thank you, i know i heard that on a documentary and couldn’t believe my ears! what next fruit STYLE apples!

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      April 5, 2016 / 3:04 pm

      i know; it’s terrible!

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      April 5, 2016 / 3:04 pm

      thanks!

  2. Pete
    October 26, 2016 / 11:13 am

    There is a big question on what exactly needs to be on food labels as discussed in this blog by Abbey Labels http://www.abbeylabels.co.uk/blog/activity-information-displayed-food-labels. I really like the idea of being told what exercise I need to do in order to work off that item, I think you’d have to take it with a pinch of salt sometimes (excuse the pun) but otherwise you may become over obsessed with the information on food labels.

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