Steps for Correct Reading of the Food Labels

Food labels located on the package provides detailed information about the food. These labels state the important details such as nutritional values, meaning carbohydrates, proteins, fibres, fat, vitamins and minerals, details of the manufacturer and production permits, ingredients list, portions and calory values.

Why is it Important to Read the Food Labels Correctly? 

Food labels, in addition to providing details about the product, is opne of the most important factors which effect conscious purchase and correct food choices. Concerning food safety, labels are required to state nutritional values, portions, conditions of preparation and storage and other similar issues. In order to protect the consumers from misleading information, reading the food labels is one of the cornerstones of healthy eating.

Food labels, presents the food and prevents risk analysis and also protects customer rights by ensuring the tranmission of correct information. With the energy and nutritional values included in the label, consumers can keep track of their daily intakes. However, we should note that the consumed amount and nutritional values are not always the same.

Most package foods present their nutritional values for 100 grams. But if the product is 200 grams, that means that it has double the calory of the nutritional values stated in the label. In such a case, we should note the reference value which states the contribution of a single portion of the food.

What do the Values stated in Label Mean?

Portion: States the portion details. Usually phrases such as "for 100 grams" or "for 1 portion" are used.

Calory: States the calory of the food per portion and the nutritional element of the calory. Is based on the daily calory requirement.

Light: Light products which are thought to be calory-free recently, contain 25% less energy and 50% less fat compared to the reference products.

Low: For some products, phrases such as "low calory" are used. These products contain 25% less energy, sugari fat or cholesterole compared to the normal products.

Enriched: Are the products which contain additives which are not present in the food but added by the industry to protect the health of the customer. Under the scope of "Program for the Prevention of Diseases Caused by Iodine Deficiency and the Iodization of Salt". of Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Health, General Directorate of Mother-Children Health and Family Planning, in accordance with "Table and Food Industry Salt Declaration" enacted in 1998, table salts are enriched with iodine. Additionally, fruit juices with added Vitamin C, breakfast cereals with added Vitamin B and milk with added proteins are some examples.

UHT: Is the abbreviation of Ultra High Temperature. Aims to eliminate potential microorganisms with short but high temperatures. The milk heated to 135-150°C in 2 to 4 seconds is rapidly cooled down to room temperature. With this process, all harmful microorganisms are eliminated. Therefore, expiry date of the milk is extended and it can preserve its freshness and naturality for 4 months if the package is not opened.

Pasteurized: Is the elimination of harmful bacteria by heating the food up to certain temperatures. This method is usually used for milk and dairy products.

Gluten Free-Contains Gluten: Gluten is a complex group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oat. It is a strong protein which creates the structure of the dough produced for bread. People with gluten sensitivity should not consume gluten as it can result in bloating, gas, fatigue and migrane.

Aspartam Free-Contains Aspartam: Aspartam is an artificial sweetener with low calory and results in phenylalanine after it is digested. Phenylalanine is an important aminoacid which is not produced naturally by the body and received from food. The body uses proteins to produce brain chemicals and hormones. It can be found in meat, fish, egg, dairy products and hazelnut. Therefore, people with phenylketonuria should not consume aspartam. 

Things to Watch Out For! 

Saturated Fat: Increased intake of saturated fat increases the risks of cardio-vascular diseases, obesity and cancer. Therefore, saturated fat contents of a product must not exceed 1 grams per package.

Trans Fat: Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease. We must note that the product should not contain any trans fat or trans fat contents of a product must not exceed 0,5 grams per package.

Cholesterole: Cholesterole contents of the products must be minimalized for cardiac and vascular health. Therefore, foods with less than 20 mg of cholesterole per package should be preferred.

Salt: Packaged foods must contain 1,25 grams of salt at maxium. Excess salt may cause chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart diseases, strokes, stomach-bowel diseases and cancer.

Sugar: Sugar contents of a packaged product must not exceed 9 grams of sugar per portion. Consuming foods with sugar contents frequently results in increased release of insuline hormone. This may cause embolisms and fatty liver. Additionally, phrases such as semi-white sugar, refined sugar, sugar solution, invert sugar group, glucose syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup and raw cane sugar state that the products contain sugar.

Lastly, we must note that the fibre contents of the food must at least be 5 grams per portion. American National Sciences Academy suggests the daily fibre intake per age groups as follows: 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men under 50, 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men above 50.