According to Wikipedia “The nutrition facts label (also known as the nutrition information panel, and other slight variations) is a label required on most packaged food in many countries”.
Nutrition Facts Label
In 1990 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed a Nutrition Labelling and Education Act. This act required that all packaged foods to exhibit nutrition labeling. The food ingredient panel, serving sizes, and terms such as “low fat” and “light” are standardized.
Understanding Nutrition Facts Label
The Nutrition Facts label inform us about the nutrition facts of the product. It is divided into two sections:
First section gives product-specific information like serving size, calories per serving, and amount of nutrients which vary with each food product.
Second section is a Footnote with Daily Values (DVs). This piece of information provides particulars about the Daily Values for main nutrients like fats, sodium and fiber. The DVs are mentioned for people who take 2,000 or 2,500 calories/day.
The values for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium are maximum amounts and one should try to stay below the listed amount.
The Daily Values for total carbohydrate and dietary fiber represents the minimum amounts recommended for a 2,000 calorie menu. At least this amount of these nutrients should be taken per day.
The footnote does not change from product to product and is only found on products with larger labels.
Food labels also tell us number of serving/package. These labels are extremely important which will be described in the article below.
According to the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which was implemented on January 1, 2006, requires that the labels of foods including;
- dietary supplements,
- infant formula, and
- medical foods
- conventional foods, containing major food allergens (called ‘Big Eight’ food allergens)
4. crustacean shellfish,
6. tree nuts,
7. wheat and
Such ingredients must be listed if they are present in any amount, even in
- colours or
- spice blends.
It is required that the manufacturers must mention the specific nuts (e.g., cashew, walnut, almond) or seafood (e.g., lobster, shrimp, salmon, tuna) used in the food products.
Reading nutrition labels are very important in order to avoid food allergens and also to prevent food reactions.
Allergen Avoidance Lists
For a list visit here.
The FDA food allergen label law necessitate foods to state if they contain a top 8 food allergen (milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, crustacean shellfish).
Each year, millions of Americans have allergic reactions to food. Although most food allergies result in relatively mild and moderate symptoms,some food allergies can cause severe reactions, and may even be life-threatening.
Food Allergy statistics: http://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics
According to American Academy of Allergy, Asthema & Immunology:
Outcomes from a study of 38,480 children (infant to 18) in 2010 indicated:
8% have a food allergy
- Approximately 6% aged 0-2 years have a food allergy
- About 9% aged 3-5 years have a food allergy
- Nearly 8% aged 6-10 years have a food allergy
- Approximately 8% aged 11-13 years have a food allergy
- More than 8.5% aged 14-18 years have a food allergy
38.7% of food allergic children have a history of severe reactions.
30.4% of food allergic children have multiple food allergies.
Of food allergic children, peanut is the most prevalent allergen, followed by milk and then shellfish.
In 2012, 5.6% or 4.1 million children reported food allergies in the past 12 months.
Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2012, table 2.
FOOD LABELS AND DISEASE MANAGEMENT
Nutrition labels can guide the buyer in checking the ingredients list so as to help them avoid additives or ingredients they want to avoid because of their ailment.
According to a study in which use of nutrition facts label was checked in the management of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hypetlipidemia. Patients who were told by health professionals to read food labels to reduce weight and calories was 50% higher than those patients who were not told. Patients who read food labels consumed more fiber and less sugar, saturated fat, carbohydrates and energy.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR CONSUMERS
Studies suggest that almost half of Americans use nutrition facts labels to make food purchase decisions, making it an important source of information for consumers.
A Health and Diet Survey in 2008, reported that 54% of the respondents ‘often’ use these labels when buying a product for the first time.
Moreover, in another research 53% of the sample “always or almost always” read nutrition labels for purchasing food products.
Food labels are specially helpful when consumer has to choose to buy from different brands, with different ingredients(spices, flavors, main ingredient ), different processing methods (canning, freezing etc). These labels can help them select which ones are more nutritionally suited to their needs.
According to WHO, in 2014, 1.9 billion adults were over weight. 42 million children under the age of 5 years, in 2013, were overweight or obese. It’s a growing epidemic that is killing people than those who are under weight. Reading labels can let us make right food choices, specially if some one is trying to prevent weight gain or lose weight. Nutrition labels can be used to consume more fiber, fewer calories and less carbohydrates, sugar and saturated fats.
Nutrient Information/Healthful Eating
Important nutrients like fiber, vitamin A, C, iron and calcium are always mentioned on nutrition labels. The percentage of daily values can give a very good idea on food being high or low in essential nutrients. If daily value of a nutrient is around 10, it shows that the food is a good source of that nutrient. Where as if it is 20% of daily value then that food is considered as high in that nutrient. If out diet is lacking in any nutrient, we can add it to our diet by reading food labels and adding those foods to our diet. Understanding these labels can let us follow a healthy eating pattern and make it easy to select nutritious foods.
In conclusion, it is important to know what you are consuming. Read the nutrition labels first before purchasing.
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