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Food Labels and Nutrients – How Important Are They?

By: , Posted on: August 13, 2015


Food packages are one of the primary tools used to provide consumers with information about the nutrient content of the product. Throughout the past few decades, food packages have also been used to provide health-related claims or information to assist consumers with their purchasing decisions. Labels on the product package and point-of-purchase information, can influence consumers’ purchasing patterns and overall knowledge of the foods they are buying. Labeling information can include the actual nutrient content, as well as information on the structure–function or specific health claims related to the food. The nutrient content is based on product analyses or databases containing nutritional data; however, many consumers do not completely understand how to use this information to make decisions, so they rely more on the labeling statements dealing with the structure–function of the food, such as ‘low fat,’ ‘lean,’ ‘no trans fat,’ or on specific health claim statements, such as ‘a low-fat diet reduces risk of heart disease.’

The nutrient content data are typically designed to present information in a standard format that allows consumers to easily make comparisons among foods at the point of purchase to enable food choices that meet certain consumer expectations and contribute to food choices that prevent or manage chronic disease. For example, a nutrient label might include information on serving size, kilocalories per serving, and fat from serving. Nutritional claims are typically general statements that allow consumers to make informed dietary choices based on recognized health recommendations and scientific criteria.

Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend in fitness programs across the United States, and individuals seem to have an increased desire to improve overall health through exercise and diet. The food industry has responded to this trend with ‘healthier options’ to allow consumers to make better choices. Other consumers have health-related conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, that often contribute to their food selections.

In the United States, the contribution of red meat products to the incidence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer is often criticized, and nutritional guidance encourages consumption in moderation. Unfortunately, the positive nutrient aspects of meat’s role in the diet are often overlooked. However, from a global perspective, it is important to understand the contribution of red meat to key micronutrients and protein intake, especially for individuals with limited food supplies and in developing countries. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), it is estimated that more than 2 billion people in the world are deficient in key vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin A, iodine, iron, and zinc, and that meat and meat products contain important levels of protein and some micronutrients that are essential for growth and development.

Understand the concerns over fat, strategies for fat reduction and the nutritional enhancement of meat products in the article Nutrient Claims on Packaging

Related Articles from the Encyclopedia of Meat Sciences, Second Edition:

encyclopedia of meat sciencesNutrition of Meat- Poultry

Human Nutrition- Meat and Human Diet: Facts and Myths

Human Nutrition- Cardiovascular and Obesity Health Concerns

This excerpt was taken from the article Nutrient Claims on Packaging

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Food Science & Nutrition

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