The Importance of Food Labels

Food labels are one of the most important ways to communicate information about food products. Food labels, which include any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter written, printed, stencilled, marked, embossed or impressed on or attached to a food product, are used to convey items such as nutrition values and ingredients, manufacturers, health claims, possible allergens, etc.

Food labeling is a critical tool to inform and promote healthy eating behaviors. International and public health organizations support policies aimed at educating consumers about dietary choices and shifting the food industry toward making healthier foods.

The most common type of food labels are required by the FDA and include a Nutrition Facts panel with information on energy (kilojoules or kilocalories), fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, fiber, sodium, sugars and salt. Many food labels also contain additional information, such as a statement of identity, net contents and the manufacturer’s name and address. This is important in case of a food recall, because it allows the product to be traced back to its original manufacturer.

A growing number of countries have regulated front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labeling. These are designed to provide nutritional information quickly and easily. The FOP graphic is often shown on the front of the package and can influence a consumer’s decision to purchase the product. However, these labels are not closely monitored by the FDA and may leave out less favorable nutrient information such as a high-fat or salt content.

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