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What are Food Labels?

A food label is the descriptive matter, written, printed or attached to prepackaged food, food products or beverages. They are usually found on the back or side of the package. Prepackaged foods are foods placed in a package of any nature and which is ready for sale to the consumer. It is packed in such a manner that the contents cannot be changed without tampering it.

All prepacked foods require a ‘Nutrition Facts Label’ that displays certain mandatory information. The label requirements may vary according to the local laws and regulations. However, basic requirements like the list of ingredients, serving size, calories, nutritional values, date of production, expiry date, name and address of the manufacturer, etc. remain the same. Since food travels distances before it gets to our kitchen, food labels can be effective instruments in helping consumers to make informed and healthful food choices. It helps us understand what is in the foods and beverages we may choose to consume.

Usually the labelling on the front cover of the package is used to promote the sale of the product. Front labels are often used to lure people into buying the product. Some of these labels can be highly misleading. It is therefore very important to always flip the package and read the labelling on the back of the package and on the side if any. This can help you choose between products and keep a check on the amount of foods you're eating that are high in fat, salt and added sugars.

All prepackaged food products sold in India are required to comply with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). This statutory body was established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. They ensure that the labels are truthful and not misleading by monitoring the same.

The new directives July 2022 by FSSAI mandates e-commerce food companies like Swiggy and Zomato to display the calorific value and information related to nutrition and allergen of a food item on packages. This requires the restaurants and eateries on these food-ordering services to feed the data on online platforms. This makes it more beneficial for the consumers.

The new regulations also make it mandatory for fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCG) to specifically declare allergens and added sugars, if there are any artificial sweeteners including what it is, quantity and any possible side-effects.

Many of us today want to know that our foods were not produced and transported in ways harmful to other people or to the planet. We also want foods that fit and benefit us individually. Food labels have therefore had to evolve and provide for those new needs. Providing information on food labels not only empowers consumers to make more informed and better choices, but also prevents adulteration of food and encourages food companies to produce healthier food.

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