What’s on a food label?
Food labels help us choose packaged foods based on our individual needs and nutrition requirements. Food labels also allow us to compare products, to help us choose the healthiest product for our needs.
What information can you find on a food label?
- Name and description of food
- Health star rating
- Ingredient list
- Allergy statement
- Storage requirements
- Country of origin
- Date mark
- Nutrition information panel
- Recycling information
Health Star Rating system (HSR)
Health Star Rating is on the front of many packaged foods and helps to compare similar packaged products and choose a healthier option easily. The Health Star Rating uses the nutrition information for a product to provide a star rating from 0.5 to 5 stars.
The stars allocated are based on the presence of ‘risk’ nutrients (energy, total sugars, saturated fat, and salt) and ‘beneficial’ components (fibre, protein, and fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content).
The more stars, the healthier the product is for you.
Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)
Helps you understand how healthy a product is alongside the Health Star Rating. It will tell you some important things:
- The recommended serving size and serves per pack.
- The energy (kilojoules) in the product.
- How much protein, fat and carbohydrates are in the product.
- Details of other nutrients you might want to eat less of, like saturated fat, sugar and sodium (salt).
- Details of additional nutrients: fibre, iron, and calcium.
The Nutrition Information Panel is split into at least 2 columns, so you can see:
1. What you are eating if you eat a serve and,
2. What you are eating per 100g, this enables you to easily compare products.
Often, you’ll see a %DI column as well. This stands for Percentage Daily Intakes. This helps you understand how much a serve of the food is contributing to your daily recommended nutrient intake, based on the requirements for an average adult.
The Ingredients List
When you read the ingredients list for a packaged product it is helpful to remember:
- Ingredients are shown in descending order of weight, so the first ingredient is the one that there’s the most of.
- Ingredients with allergens, like milk and wheat, are in bold. There is also an allergen statement underneath the ingredients list. Foods may also have an allergen claim on the pack e.g. ‘gluten free’.
- The more ingredients you recognise and the shorter the ingredient list, the better.