Decoding Nutrition Labels
By Renee Hughes • November 9th, 2011 • 6486 Views
Since 2003 when Health Canada first made food labeling mandatory, Canadians have been relying on product labels to help them make informed food choices. But the question remains: do labels tell us the entire truth about what we’re eating? I’ve asked myself this a million times, so gather around my curious foodies because it’s time to read between the lines.
I don’t know about you but this term makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When I see the word “natural” I immediately think of Mother Nature and her bountiful beauty of green trees and radiant sunshine. Apparently Health Canada agrees because the word “natural” can only be used to describe foods that are found in nature and have not been altered as a result of the refining process. Foods can also be given this comforting term if they contain ingredients that are not artificial or synthetic.
Pretty straight forward huh? Not so much. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the term “natural” along with its clever doppelgangers – “nature” and “nature’s way” – is often misused on labels of products sold in Canada. In fact, some particularly crafty manufactures even use these words to convey the idea that their product is nutritionally superior to others. While this isn’t always the case, it does remind us that we have to ask the right questions and do the right digging to determine if these foods are nutritionally robust as they sound. For those unconvinced, please consider exhibit A: so long as the refining process does not alter its physical, biological, or chemical make-up, sugar (sucrose) can be described as natural because it exists in nature. I rest my case.
2. Excellent Source
I sure like the phrase “excellent source,” but what makes something excellent? In Canada, a product can proclaim excellence if it provides a very large amount of a nutrient. “Very large” may seem quite arbitrary but the term is well defined. Phew. For vitamins it’s at least 35% of the recommended daily intake, except for vitamin C where excellence is achieved if the food provides at least 50% of the nutrient. For fibre, a product must contain 6 grams or more per serving or contain at least 6 grams of fibre from an identified source.
Before 1952, the Food and Drugs Act prohibited the use of the term “pure” if the food was a compound, mixture, imitation, or...
Nutrition, Wellness, Diet, health, fat, nutrition labels, food labels