Consumer Watch

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Legislation limits misleading labels on foods

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CLOSER LOOK: Investigation of food labeling in the light of new legislation. Picture: Mujahid Safodien

THANDI SKADE

DID YOU know that that olive oil spread contains only 20 percent olive oil?

Or that 26 percent of a 1.5kg packet of frozen chicken is a brine-based mixture?

These are some of the advantages afforded to consumers thanks to the new food labelling legislation introduced last month.

Manufacturers will no longer be able to mislead consumers with “fat free”, “high in” or “free of” claims as each claim has to be substantiated with a typical nutritional table that will clearly detail nutritional information.

And products that claim to be based on a specific ingredient like olive oil spread or whole nut chocolate must indicate the percentage of olive oil or whole nuts in the product.

The new legislation is good news for people with allergies triggered by common allergens like fish, eggs, tree nuts, dairy products, soya and wheat gluten because the products must be declared.

But, however good intentioned the legislation was, dieticians and commentators have noted loopholes for manufacturers to hide behind. Because it is not compulsory for food manufacturers who don’t produce “high in” or “low in” to publish a typical nutritional information table, consumers will only know that the food contains certain ingredients, including allergens and additives, how much it weighs, the sell-by date and manufacturer details.

“This is a distinct disadvantage to consumers who may want to know more about the nutritive properties of these foods when they purchase them,” said dietician Dr Ingrid van Heerden.

Steve Miller, the Sure Pure marketing executive, said consumers were set to be shocked by the amount of preservatives and nutrient value in fruit juice.

“Consumers will be able to read the labels on their juices and see exactly what kind of processed beverage concoction is masquerading as pure fruit juice as the way producers process, pad and preserve their products will be a little more evident in the future and the ugly truth revealed,” Miller said.

A snap look at several items found:

lTwo-minute noodles that claim to be high in fibre contain only just over 3 percent a serving.

lA 1.5kg pack of frozen chicken pieces is made up of 74 percent of chicken and 26 percent brine.

lAllergens contained in a baked whole wheat snack are clearly indicated and trans-free claims are substantiated.

lA 2-litre strawberry juice is made up of strawberry, grape and natural flavourants, but these are not disclosed.

lA slice of French polony contains 4.5mg of cholesterol.


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