Reading food labels is a fishy business

22 Mar 12 07:00AM EST
Post by Rachel Clemons
fish-snitz2-
I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of my waking hours scrutinising food labels. Granted, my job writing about food and nutrition for CHOICE predisposes me to reading the odd label or two (or 100!).

Now, as a mother of two young children, the time spent perusing nutrition information panels and ingredient lists has really gotten out of hand. But in my experience it really does pay to read the fine print.

Take fish for example. When you’ve been at work all day and the kids are nagging you for dinner the moment you walk in the door it’s great to have a pack of frozen fillets or fingers in the freezer – served up with some steamed veggies it’s the ultimate in healthy fast food.

Fish is low in fat, a great source of protein, is packed with essential vitamins and minerals and can be a great source of the good-for-you omega-3 fats. But are they all equal?

In our latest review of frozen fish products we found that crumbed fillets may contain as little as 45% or as much as 75% fish. And the fish content of fish fingers, the perennial kids favourite, ranged from 50% to 64%.

Of course the more fish in a product, the more of those beneficial nutrients you’ll be getting so I think it’s worth checking the % fish in the ingredients list, if nothing else.

Omega 3s are another good reason to eat fish, but don’t just buy according to on-pack claims. Products claiming to be a ‘good source of omega-3s’ vary from 106mg to 4800mg of omega-3 per 100g, for example – but you’d only know this if you checked the nutrition information panel.

Reading food labels is often way down on the list of priorities when juggling work, kids, home and life in general. But when it comes to choosing the best and most nutritious foods for your family, it can really pay off.

Our Better Food Labelling campaign is calling for industry and governments to act on the recommendations of a major, independent review of food labelling and enable Australians to make informed decisions about what we eat.

So what do you think? Do you find that nutrition/nutrient claims, percentage daily intake figures and other information on food labels help you make good choices, or do you find them confusing?
 

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