Did you know that the information on a label or elsewhere in the packaging of foodstuffs is clearly defined by the legislator? This is to make sure that the consumer does not buy the proverbial "cat in a poke". A close look is worthwhile. The label includes information on, among other things, ingredients, quality characteristics and properties of the food. This type of "business card" is intended to facilitate the purchase decision and protect against fraud.
The sales name
This is the name of the food. With the sales denomination you can determine the type of food and distinguish it from other (for example, similar).
The ingredients list
Indicates what's in the food. Although no precise quantities are given, the ingredients are listed according to their proportion by weight: in the first place is the main ingredient, the last with the least amount.
Special features: If an ingredient in the sales description or in a picture is particularly highlighted for a product, the proportion of this ingredient must be in percent in the list of ingredients or in the sales description. Example: cream pudding with ...% cream.
You can usually recognize them by their class name. This term describes the function of the additive. In addition to the class name, either the name of the additive itself or the EU uniform E number is mentioned, for example thickener guar; Emulsifiers E 471, E 475.
Ingredients that consist of several ingredients
Here, the individual components must be listed again. Example: chicken soup with noodles. In the list of ingredients is not only "pasta", but also the ingredients of pasta (durum wheat semolina, eggs, salt) are listed.
- Exception: Not all processed additives have to be mentioned. The reference can be omitted, for example, if the additives pass through compound ingredients in the finished food and exercise there no technological effect. Example: The preservative sorbic acid in the fruit preparation of a quark dessert does not have to be mentioned.
- This breakdown may also be omitted if the compound ingredient constitutes less than 25 percent of the finished food. This is to avoid unnecessarily long ingredient lists. Example: raspberry yoghurt. In the list of ingredients is "yoghurt with 19% fruit preparation". What ingredients the fruit preparation consists of does not have to be mentioned.
If, for example, the preservative contains sorbic acid in the fruit preparation of yoghurt, it does not have to be listed in the list of ingredients. Among other things, it falls under the "25-percent rule" together with the fruit preparation. Consumers who do not tolerate sorbic acid can therefore not tell from the ingredient list whether this preservative is contained in yoghurt. For allergy sufferers who are reliant on avoiding a certain substance in the food, a problem with possible health consequences. The plan is to lift this 25 percent rule, among other things, due to the increasing number of allergies. The consumer should then be fully informed about the content of the food.
The allergen labeling is hidden in the ingredients list and lists all the supplements that most commonly lead to allergies. This information is mandatory on all packaged products. Some manufacturers give with the voluntary indication "may contain traces of ..." on the packaging clues about possible contamination with allergens. Ingredients responsible for 90 percent of food intolerances must be specified by name. This includes:
- gluten-containing cereal
- Dairy products
- Sulfur dioxide and sulfites from a certain concentration
Some foods need to be labeled in accordance with EU or countrywide directives. For example, in milk products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, the percentage of fat is given. Fruit products such as jam, jelly or juice bear the mark of how many grams of fruit are processed in 100 grams of the product. For fish products, the catch method, the method of production and the catch region are indicated on the label.
Since December 2016, all nutritional packaging has been compiled with a nutritional table containing seven nutrients (in grams) and the calorific value of the product. The table contains information on the content of the following nutritional values per 100 grams or milliliter:
- Energy content: Describes the calorific value of a product - ie how many kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal) are in it. The calorific value is a guideline for the energy that the body can draw from the food.
- Fat: Here's how much fat is in the food. This information is particularly relevant, for example, in lipid metabolism disorders or in high cholesterol levels. Fat provides energy and is the carrier of fat-soluble vitamins. It consists among other things of fatty acids. Thereby one differentiates between unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.
- Saturated fatty acids: Saturated fatty acids are considered the unhealthier ones. They are mostly found in animal foods and do not need to be ingested in large quantities through the diet because they can be produced by the body itself. In excesses, saturated fats increase cholesterol and can stress the cardiovascular system.
- Carbohydrates: This refers to all carbohydrates - including sugars. The amount of sugar is also listed once again extra. Sugar and starch are the fastest available energy suppliers.
- Sugar: This nutritional information includes, for example, granulated sugar, fructose and lactose. By specifying the sugar content in a food sugar bombs can be easily recognized. Especially for diabetics this offer is of great importance.
- Protein: Describes the amount of protein that contains the food. Protein is especially important for growth, muscle and cell building.
- Salt: Salt (sodium chloride) is the main source of sodium, a vital mineral for the body. Sodium regulates the fluid and mineral balance and thus creates the basis for a functioning metabolism. Since it can not be produced by the body itself, sodium must be absorbed through the food. But too much salt is harmful to the heart. Therefore, the indication of salt concentration in a product is especially important for people who need to eat low salt due to cardiovascular problems.
Sometimes, fiber, minerals or vitamins can also be found on food packaging. This information is voluntary, so food manufacturers are not required by law to provide it.
The best before date
Specifies the time at which the food in the unopened pack at least retains its particular properties such as smell, taste, color and nutrients. After the date, the food is not automatically spoiled or its value is reduced. Before you use it, however, you should check appearance, smell and possibly the taste.
Special features: Perishable foodstuffs such as packaged minced meat have a use-by date instead of the best-before date. Until this day, you should consume the product at the latest. If the shelf life is guaranteed only under certain storage conditions, these are also named. Example: "At 4-8 degrees Celsius, best before ..." or "Store cool and dry."
The filling quantity
The capacity informs about the weight, the volume or the quantity of the packaged food.
Special features: For concentrated products such as soups and sauces you will also find out how many liters or milliliters the prepared product produces. In the case of foods in an infusion liquid, for example, canned or gherkin canned fruits, the drained weight is also indicated. Example: Capacity 825 grams, drained weight 490 grams.
The manufacturer's information
Names the name or company and address of the manufacturer, packager or seller established in the EU. In a complaint, you and the seller can thus determine where the food comes from.
Lot number or batch number
Assigns the food to a lot of goods. One lot includes food that has been produced, produced and packaged under virtually the same conditions. If the goods are claimed, the manufacturer can use the number in-house to investigate errors.
The identity mark is used to identify the operation where the food was last packaged or manufactured. This information is only necessary for foods such as meat and dairy products, ie all foods of animal content. Specifically, the identity plate then provides information about the EU member state (abbreviation) and the state in which the company is based. In addition, the label contains a special number, this is the approval number of the production facility.
The basic price
It is the price per kilogram or per liter of food. This allows you to compare the prices of products that are packaged in different quantities, such as cheese or meat, more easily. The basic price must be placed at the final price. However, many foods are exempted from this claim. Example: 2.58 Euro / 4.98 Euro / kg .
Product labels and logos
The labeling of food products with seals and logos is based on the voluntary indication of the manufacturer. The logos are very different in transparency, significance and quality. Below are some meaningful seals and logos:
- EU organic logo and state organic label: both stand for compliance with EU regulations for organic farming.
- Non-GM label: The label exclusively identifies foods that do not contain genetically modified components. Thus, the animal feed for animal products must be free of genetic engineering.
- EU seal of quality: The three EU seals of quality are called "Protected Designation of Origin", "Protected Geographical Indication" and "Guaranteed Traditional Quality". They are awarded to products that are produced in a particular region, produced in a specific area, or produced in a traditional manner. The region and production give the product a special quality and texture.
- Animal Welfare Label: This seal indicates that the animal fattening has better conditions than required by law.
- Fair Trade: The logo stands for good working and living conditions of workers and employees involved in the production of the product.
- Regional window: This logo indicates the origin and production of agricultural ingredients.
- MSC Seal of Sustainable Fisheries: MSC stands for Marine Stewardship Council. This classifies the sustainability of fisheries.