Here’s a taste of what’s in my new eBook Cracking the Code – The Handy Foodwatch Guide to Food Labels. This short extract is designed to give you an idea of what is covered in more detail.
A food label carries useful information about a product but only if you know what you’re looking for. Food labels are handy as they:
A food label carries useful information about a product but only if you know what you’re looking for.
Here is the compulsory info that is required by law on every food pack in Australia and New Zealand:
If the name of the food doesn’t make it obvious what it actually is, there must be a description which is meaningful enough to portray the true nature of the food. For example:
This is the actual weight or volume of the food without the extra weight of any packaging. For canned foods, it includes any liquid – it is not the drained weight.
This tells you the time of best eating by means of a ‘Best-Before’ or ‘Use-By’ or for bread a ‘Baked-On’ date.
Use-By dates are generally found on perishables and short-shelf life foods such as fresh meat packed at the supermarket, chilled fish, milk and yoghurt. Products should be eaten or thrown away by the use-by date as after that date the food is not safe to eat, even though you may not see any signs of spoilage like mould or an off-smell.
Best-Before dates apply to most cereals, biscuits, snack foods, flour, eggs, canned and frozen foods and other long shelf-life foods. It tells you the time of best eating quality. The food is not spoiled immediately after the date and can be sold if stored properly and in good condition, but its quality has begun to decline.
All ingredients must be stated in descending order by ingoing weight from most to least. The ingredient in the highest proportion is listed first, followed by the second, the third, and so on.
Additives are included here by their functional name, say PRESERVATIVE, followed by either their chemical name, say (SODIUM METABISULPHITE), or by their code number (223).
Small packs don’t have to carry ingredient lists e.g. individual confectionery items, sauces and condiments, sugars and sweeteners.
This shows the energy in kilojoules (calories), protein, fat (total and saturated), carbohydrate (total and sugars) and sodium in an average serve and in 100 grams of the food. Some foods also show fibre, potassium, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans fat depending on whether they make a claim about these.
For allergy sufferers, the presence of fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, wheat, soy and lupin must be declared. It is usually in or near the list of ingredients e.g. ‘Contains egg’. Sometimes the allergens are shown in bold in the Ingredient List e.g.‘ ... milk solids ...'.
The name and street address of the manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer must be clearly identified for consumers (not a P.O. box).
This identifies the country or countries in which the food was grown, made or processed. In Australia, if the food is made from imported ingredients or from local plus imported ingredients, this must be listed. New Zealand does not require country of origin labelling.
If you like to buy Australian products, here’s what you need to know:
This label is for foods which are 100% Australian grown e.g. lettuces, oranges.
This label tells you that 100% of the ingredients and all major processing was performed in Australia e.g. cheese, yoghurt, cereals, breads.
This label is a little different in that it tells you that all major processing happened in Australia and it also tells you the percentage of Australian ingredients in the final product. Any imported products where only some minor processing such as slicing or canning has been done in Australia cannot use this label.
This tells you that the produce (usually) has been packed in Australia but may have been grown elsewhere.
For best quality and safe eating, follow all instructions e.g. for example, keep chilled at 4◦C or less before opening OR Refrigerate after opening.
There needs to be a lot or batch number (or the date if there’s only one batch made a day) so a product can be recalled in the event of a problem or accidental error.
These 10 things are required on almost all packed food items with a few exceptions such as a small packet or food prepared in front of you to your order. These things come from the Food Code which is set by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. You can read all the detail here . All of this information and more is in my latest eBook, Cracking the Code – The Handy Foodwatch Guide to Food Labels. Grab your copy here.