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Food labels, a precious ally for consumers

Learning how to read nutritional information is important for our well-being

It would be great to have your own vegetable garden, your own small livestock farm or to always rely on excellent producers with a fully transparent supply chain. But it is not always possible. This is why food labels are an essential tool for consumers, and learning to read them is crucial in order to choose food products that respect our health and to be able to make informed purchases.

It is important to bear in mind that some of the information provided is mandatory and regulated by specific national or European laws, whereas other information is optional or complementary. Since the basic requirement of a food label is to inform the consumer about the actual characteristics of a product, any misleading qualitative or nutritional information is prohibited. The label must be “clear, legible and indelible”.

Nutrition facts are very important, since they help us understand what we are about to feed our body with; they also reveal the country of origin, the place of origin, the producer’s name and the production plant. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight: the substances in the greatest amount are listed first, followed by those that are present in the lowest percentage. We should also always check information on allergens, especially people with intolerance. The label also includes the additives used to preserve the product and that can cause allergic reactions in some individuals, especially if present in large quantities. The expiry date, instead, varies according to each food product, many of which are perishable by nature, and may vary from a compulsory “use by” date to a “best before date” for food that can be stored longer.

Finally, indications on energy value, protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugar and salt content is mandatory.