Do food labels really live up to their claims?


Everywhere we go we are exposed to advertising – even on the packages of the food we buy – but how much of it is just hype to make us believe we are making healthy choices for our families?

In short, a lot of it is hype.

Manufacturers are competing for your business and while there are rules and regulations about what manufacturers can say, marketers are great a promoting what’s good about their product without telling the whole story.

In general packaged foods have higher amounts of fat, sugar and salt to improve their flavour – so if a product is low in one, it is probably high in at least one of the other two. Some common examples:
• 'Baked not fried' does not necessarily mean the product has less fat
• 'Cholesterol free' claims might be used on products that have never contained cholesterol (such as vegetable oil)
• 'Light' or 'Lite' can be reference to texture, colour or taste – not necessarily energy

If you have ever found it hard to understand food labels, rest assured you are not alone!

It takes time to learn how to understand nutrition information panels and more time to read labels of new products and decide if these foods are an appropriate choice for your family.

If you would like an overview of the seven most common misleading labelling tricks on packages read this article on The Conversation website:

Also, the ABC consumer information show, The Checkout, has a few clips on its website entitled Serving Size Me and Healthy Labelling explaining why understanding labels and serving sizes can be so tricky. These clips can be found here: