Health ratings on stuff you get of the shelf in stores have been around for a while now. In Australia, they use the Mondelez score that ranges from 1-5 Stars, In Singapore, it’s the healthier choice symbol, which informs you that a product is a healthier alternative to a similar product. In Singapore that Healthier Choice symbol is slapped on 3500 different food products and has become more of a marketing tool than an actual benefit for consumers.
Then there are food labels, which are supposed to serve an important purpose. To tell you exactly what you are putting into your mouth. Of course, there are differences between EU and US nutrition labels. For one the US uses serving size, and the EU goes by 100g or ml. In the EU, common food additives are assigned an identifying three- or four-digit code, known as an E number. In the US, additives must be referenced by their common names. So here in the mighty red dot, we get products from everywhere. Now unless you like shopping for hours on basic groceries because you have to keep whipping out your phone to understand what that word means on the packaging or scanning the barcode with the latest and greatest food health app your likely not going to care.
These ratings are supposed to assist the consumer in making informed and healthier choices when purchasing food products. And even as health boards around the globe look to further tighten the requirements for these labels, more can be done so that people do not mistakenly think all these foods are outright healthy.
Policymakers worldwide are concerned with cost-effective approaches to address obesity and its related chronic diseases. One common strategy to encourage healthier eating habits is front-of-pack nutrition labeling on packaged food products or labels on store shelves that provide consumers with clear, easy-to-understand nutrition information.
In Singapore alone, 1 in 9 has diabetes. This is among the highest rates globally. And at least 11% of the population is obese. The symbols currently in use are not helpful. You have whole-grain bread with the healthier choice symbol, and you also have flavored cereal with the same symbol. The symbol now becomes useless. A healthier choice does not equate to a healthy choice. It’s like saying smoking a cigarette is healthier then sucking on the tailpipe of a truck. Both are going to kill you. One just faster than the other.
Food labels should have easy and understandable information on top of the ingredient list that’s already there. For instance. Meets a percentage of a healthy adult’s daily recommended intake per serving. (Now this one is a little tricky. If the entire container/package is meant to be eaten in one sitting. Like for example a can of soup. That should be considered one serving.) Calories per serving. How much saturated fat it contains. Is the product GMO-free and if no irresponsible use of antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals were used.
Not the meaningless marketing nonsense that many packagings have slapped all over them.
- “Made with natural goodness,”
- “Contains antioxidants”,
- “A good source of vitamins and minerals,”
- “A good source of fiber,”
- “Made with Real Fruit,”
- “Made with Natural and Artificial flavors” then there’s this one,
- “All Natural,” even the FDA doesn’t have a definition for the use of the term.
- Cyanide is all natural, would you like some salt with those roasted apple seeds?
And the list goes on.
Food packages are covered in claims that make you think you’re buying something healthy, and make you feel good about purchasing the product, but many of those labels are useless to you, the consumer.
And did you know low fat isn’t always a good thing? When you take away the fat from something, you are taking away its flavor. And the manufacturers then have to increase the sugar content, so it is palatable. Do you like chugging on energy drinks? Did you know that the guarana bean has three times more caffeine content in them than coffee beans? But the manufacturers don’t have to state that in their ingredient list. Then there’s the no sugar claim. Heard of Aspartame? Aspartame messes up your brain chemistry to crave more unhealthy food because even though you taste something sweet your body isn’t getting any sugar. So it’s going to look for sugar.
Then there are the date labels. Which are not standardized and a lot of times have nothing to do with when the food needs to be thrown out. So you may just be throwing out perfectly good food.