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How to read a nutrition label

In order to assess whether the food product we intend to buy has requirements compatible with the principles of healthy nutrition and therefore with our health and our needs, we must learn to read a nutritional label . Indeed, it is a valuable source of useful information for consumers.

How To Read A Nutrition Label

What are the indications that must be compulsorily reported on a nutrition label?

  • Product name – information on the physical conditions of the food or the treatment to which it has been subjected (durum wheat semolina pasta, frozen, powdered, smoked food …);
  • quantity – referred to the net weight. For liquids, the volume must be indicated (eg liter);
  • list of ingredients – not everyone knows that the ingredients must be listed in descending order of weight , so as to always indicate the main ingredient in the first place;
  • allergens – it is possible to identify any allergens (ingredients that can cause hypersensitivity in some people); they are identifiable because they are written in a different font, for example in bold . When the allergen is not present among the ingredients, to protect the health of the consumer, it is however reported that the product may have been contaminated during the production chain (for example: from nuts, wheat, soy … );
  • Country of origin or place of provenance , manufacturing plant;
  • name and address of the manufacturer, packer, importer;
  • alcoholic strength – relates to beverages with an alcohol content greater than 1.2% vol .;
  • instructions for use – for example “to be consumed after cooking”;
  • methods of storage and / or use, for foods that require special storage conditions . The methods of storage and use of the product after opening the package must also be indicated;
  • minimum storage term, expiration date. The wording “eat preferably by …” indicates the date by which the food retains its organoleptic characteristics and its nutritional properties. The wording “to be consumed by …” indicates the date by which the food can be consumed. After the date indicated, it can be harmful to health.
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The nutritional label what it is for

The nutritional label is mandatory and is drawn up according to the legislation defined at European level and then adopted in individual countries, with the aim of meeting the needs and respecting the rights of consumers and to allow healthier and more informed food choices . It provides precise information on the energy value and the content of fats, saturated fats, carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and salt. The indications are expressed in reference to 100 g of product and, often, to the portion (e.g. piece) or to the recommended portion (indicated in grams of product).

Nutritional table: the values

The nutritional table (or declaration) can be supplemented with voluntary indications on the content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, starch, fiber (soluble and insoluble), polyols, mineral salts and vitamins.

Energy value : it is indicated in kilocalories (Kcal – used in Italy) and in kilojoules (Kjoule – used in the international measurement system).

Fats : relative to the total quantity of fats contained in the food product, expressed in grams.

It is also mandatory to report the saturated fat content on the nutritional label (in the nutritional label “of which saturated”). The indication of the content in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids is instead voluntary and, usually, is expressed by the producer to enhance a food that is naturally rich in them (for example, grapeseed, corn, sunflower oil).

Carbohydrates : referred to the total quantity contained in the food, expressed in grams. The mandatory indication “of which sugars” refers to the content of simple sugars (sucrose, fructose, lactose, dextrose) naturally present in the food or added during processing.

Proteins : referred to the total quantity contained in the food product, expressed in grams. No distinction is made between the content in proteins of animal origin and that in vegetable proteins.

Salt – refers to the total amount of salt contained, expressed in grams. The indication of salt rather than its main component, sodium, was chosen because it was considered more easily understandable by consumers. To find out the amount of sodium contained in a food, divide the amount of salt by 2.5. Note: the indication of the content in mineral salts and vitamins (expressed in mg or in micrograms) is voluntary, but must correspond to the requirements of the EFSA (Food Safety Agency) guidelines.

Reference intakes: the recommended daily intakes (RDA indices) refer to the consumption of an average adult who performs moderate physical activity: Energy, 8400 KJ / 2000 Kcal; fats 70g; saturated fat 20g; 260g carbohydrates; sugars 90 g; 50g protein; salt 6 g. It is important to know that reference intakes are not a goal, but are a useful guide for consumers especially when comparing multiple products to understand, for example, which product has the lowest salt or simple sugar content.

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