Confessions of a food label addict

18 Nov 09 04:40PM EST
Post by Rachel Clemons

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m a food label addict. But I haven’t always been quite so obsessed, and I blame my job for that.

As a food and health content producer for CHOICE I spend hours scrutinising nutrition information panels, ingredients lists and the claims made on food packaging, and this habit seems to have insinuated itself into my personal life.

Take last night. I hurried into the supermarket on my way home to grab a couple of key ingredients for the meal I’d planned for dinner –– 10 minutes tops in and out, or so I thought. I walked out half an hour later having been distracted by the canned tomatoes. Yes, sad, I know, but it’s amazing what you find when you look closely at a label.

A quick check revealed that Ardmona Crushed Tomatoes contain 97% tomatoes, compared with 60% (minimum) plus tomato juice in its Chopped Tomatoes or 57% (minimum) plus juice in its Whole Peeled varieties. But the Crushed Tomatoes variety has added sugar, thickener and salt, while the others don’t. And there I was thinking I was making a simple choice between big pieces or little pieces!

As a parent of a 16-month-old I’m more obsessed than ever with labels. I do my best to make the bulk of her meals from scratch, but I know I’m not the first mum to resort to the occasional jar or can of food, or the odd packaged snack to throw into her lunchbox for day care. I try to buy products that aren’t too sugary or salty, so the nutrition information panel comes in handy here. Plus I check the ingredients list — the percentage labelling in particular –– to see how much real food a product contains.

But with Australia’s food labelling laws now under review, I can’t take the information I use for granted. The review could result in better information on food labels than we have at the moment; it could also mean we get less.

I realise that others may not have the same level of obsession with food labels as me, but I’m certain that most people use them, at least occasionally, to help decide what to buy. Whether we’re looking for products produced in Australia, or we’re watching your fat intake for health, or we just want to know if the strawberry yoghurt we’re about to buy really contains strawberries — I think we need food label information to help make healthy, informed choices about what we eat. Do you?

If you’re an addict like me, or even if you’ve just dabbled in a bit of food label perusing, I’d love to hear your thoughts on food labels.


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