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Patience and some indispensable notions for reading labels

What criteria do we use when choosing a product at the supermarket? Brand, design, price, loyalty? We all have our own strategy when doing the shopping, but how can we be really sure that we are filling our shopping cart with the best products for our health? The answer can be found in food labels, which are an essential tool to help us choose products from shelves, yet they are not always easy to understand.

According to journalist and expert Enrico Cinotti, there are six main additives that we should avoid:

  • Allergens. On the label, they should be distinguished from other ingredients “by size, style or colour”. The best known are milk, cereals containing gluten, eggs, soy and nuts. But also sulphites in wine.
  • Sweeteners. They are substitutes for sugar. Less calories to deceive attentive sportspeople, but more health problems. They are disguised with numbers or letters, such as E951 Aspartame, K Acesulfame, E955 Sucralose.
  • Flavour enhancers. For example, monosodium glutamate (E621), which is added to food to conceal quality defects.
  • Colourings. Some are harmless and are only used to make food look more appealing. Others, instead, are harmful such as quinoline yellow (E104), allura red (E129), titanium dioxide (E171) and aluminium (E173).
  • Preservatives. They help to avoid the proliferation of microorganisms, but it is better not to overdo them. This is the case of potassium nitrate (E252), potassium nitrite (E249) and sodium nitrite (E250).
  • Flavourings. They are usually placed at the bottom of the list. There are over 3,000 types of flavourings summed up in a single insufficient word.