Monday, 23 February 2009
Lack of interest cited as the biggest reason for not doing so
-The Nutrition and Health Foundation urges consumers to tahe the time to read and understand food labels-
According to a recent survey carried out by Sarah Keogh, consultant dietitian on Irish consumers’ use and understanding of nutrition labels on pre-packed foods, 61% of males and 40% of females never read the nutrition label before purchase. The survey also found that understanding of labels was limited among consumers with only 32% of the population knowing that there is a difference between salt and sodium and only 10% understanding the difference between energy and calories. Consumers also initially confused the term “nutrition label” with ingredient list, best-before date and other aspects of the food label.
“As most people are aware, the leading causes of death in Ireland, namely heart attacks, strokes, and various types of cancer, claim thousands of lives every year”, says Dr. Muireann Cullen, Manager of the Nutrition and Health Foundation. “Scientific studies have documented over and over again the role a healthy diet plays in dramatically reducing one’s risk of these diseases and at a time when obesity levels are reaching an all time high, the importance of knowing what you are eating cannot be stressed highly enough,” continued Dr Cullen.
“They may not look like it, but food labels may be some of your best friends when managing your diet, cholesterol and weight. Consumers can sometimes find the information on food packages to be confusing. However, once you learn to read a food label, you’re well on your way to making healthy food choices. Foods can tell you a lot about themselves. So don’t just purchase the first product you see, let the label help you find out more about the foods,” concluded Dr Muireann Cullen.
NHF’s top tips on reading food labels:
1. A list of product’s ingredients. This listing is a legal requirement and tells you what is used to make the product. The ingredients are listed in descending order, so the ingredient that was used in the greatest amount will appear first on the list.
2. Check outside for what’s inside. Guidline Daily Amounts (GDA’s) make it easier for people to select and enjoy a mix of foods suited to their individual needs. More and more food labels contain GDA’s so it is important that you can read, understand and use them to make informed choices about the foods to purchase. Looking at the percentages on the label can give you a quick idea of what percentage of your daily intake of fat, salt, sugar and calories are in one serving of the food.
3. Pay close attention to serving size and to the number of servings per container. These are often overlooked, but are very important when choosing and eating foods for healthy living.
4. Compare products. If you want to know whether or not a food is high or low in a particular nutrient or want to compare the nutrient content of similar foods, then check out the nutrient content per 100g or per 100ml. This will help you decide on the healthier choice.
5. Calories do count and whether they come from fats, sugars or proteins is very important, too. Once in awhile, it is a good idea to count all the calories you eat in a day. This is fairly easy to do just by adding up the calories per serving listed on the nutrition facts labels for all the foods consumed during the day.
6. Fortified, enriched, added, extra, and plus. This means additional nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre have been added to the product.
7. Sugar-free or fat-free. Check the label as even if a food is low in fat or sugar, the food may not necessarily be low in calories.
8. Be aware of your salt intake. Irish adults are advised not to eat more than 6g salt/day. So if you see, a sodium value on a label, multiply that number by 2.5 to get your salt intake e.g. 0.4g sodium = 1g salt.