Why is Food Labelling Mandatory?

Food labelling is mandatory in many countries, but why is it required in the first place? and what does it mean for consumers?

August 24, 2022

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What is a food label?

Food labels' fundamental role is to instruct consumers and facilitate the marketing of the product. Although, the knowledge delivered by food labels has evolved. The objectives of food labeling have become varied and complicated under the influence of food legislation, food companies, retailers, public authorities, and the consumer over the past few years.

The food label is defined as any tag, brand, mark, pictorial, or other descriptive matter, written, printed, stenciled, marked, embossed or impressed on, or attached to, a container of food. Whereas food labeling refers to any written, printed, or graphic matter that is present on the label that accompanies the food or is displayed near the food, including that for the purpose of promoting its sale or disposal.

Why is Food Labelling critical and mandatory?

Right to Information for Consumer Safety: Food label informs a purchaser regarding the composition and nature of the product to avoid confusion and safeguard the buyer against misuse, risk, and hazard. It additionally contains the net weight, amount of contents, expiry date, or best before so order that they can make product comparisons and choices which prove to be a good match for their choices.

Brand Communication with Consumers: Marketing information, which includes the maximum retail price, brand name, and sale offers, is provided also as instructions on the safe storage, preparation, and handling of the food product.

Health Information to EatRight: Nowadays consumers are utilizing food labels to seek out information on ingredients, serving size, country of origin, the declaration of potential allergens, nutrition and/or health claims, and associated statements concerning health benefits that help consumers to make a wise decision before buying food products.

Nutrition Literacy and Education: Nutrition labelling additionally provides healthcare professionals with a chance to teach clients about nutrition, and the way to apply this information to adapt to healthier food selections. Nutrition labelling is contemplated as a population-based approach, and if planned well, will probably have a positive influence on the diet of consumers, and thus contribute to the accomplishment of public health objectives.

Also Read - What Are The Mandatory Elements Of A Food Label?

Why is a Food Label regulated?

In ancient times most foods were created locally and devoured locally, so there was no far-reaching utilization of food labels or names, and henceforth no requirement for broad guidelines of such names/labeling. The industrialization of the food processing sector in the nineteenth century made buyers increasingly dependent on food labels as an essential tool of information in making purchasing decisions. Before the existence of superstores and supermarkets, the conventional shop position empowered clients to be served straightforwardly by retailers. Consumers' questions about food items could not then be fulfilled at the moment of purchase. Hence food labels being regulated was a need of an hour to address issues of consumers.

Food Labels are regulated for the following reasons:

Prevention of Misbranding:

Misbranding was happening very frequently in the mid-twentieth century. Trademarks gave an incomplete affirmation of value to buyers however, there was a reasonable requirement for the guideline to prevent misleading and false labeling. The standard issue of misbranding was the distortion of weight. Hence there was a requirement seen for progressively extensive guidelines including confirmed labeling necessities.

Public health:

With the advancement in food science and nutrition as well as the recognition of the association between food consumption and long-term ailments, there was an agreement regarding including nutritional information in detail. Today nutrition labeling has gotten so explicit in certain nations that it is viewed as a tool to instruct the general population about nutrition. Recently the main objectives of food legislation have been framed on food safety and the protection of the health of the consumer.

International trade:

The most recent food labelling regulation difficulties revolve around issues of the internationalization of food distribution and formulating regulations that are not troublesome for food distributors in numerous nations, while simultaneously keeping up distinctive laws in every nation that recognizes that nation's social inclinations concerning food.

Developing an Organized Industry and Retail:

Unorganized retailing is by a wide margin the predominant type of exchange in India establishing 93% of complete trade, while the organized exchange represents the remaining of the whole trading system. By and large, the labelling guidelines just apply to food sold in packages, for example, jars, packets, or cardboard boxes. Though various non-packaged food or mostly fresh produce that is not packaged by the producer, for example, fresh meat and fish, fruits and vegetables as of now not required to be labelled. Endeavors have been taken to manage the unorganized marketplaces of fresh produce to guarantee food safety and food quality. Lately, FSSAI showed a drive to enhance the state of unorganized organic/non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables retail marketplaces all over the nation by coordinating nearby traders with organized retailers and assisting with advanced web-based digital e-commerce platforms. It will likewise build trust among consumers to have clean, fresh, and authentic produce.

Innovation:

As innovation keeps on expanding its role in food processing and preservation, questions emerge with regards to which technologies are acceptable from consumers' as well as manufacturers' viewpoints. Labelling regulations indicating the utilization of 'genetically modified organisms/foods' or 'irradiated foods' where consumers may have preferences concerning the innovation, yet a few, including the FDA, question whether such data ought to apply to consumer choices. Various nations have different thoughts and opinions on the same as well as each one of them is bringing these opinions to everyone's notice for betterment.

Conclusion

Recent studies said that however food labels are a type of information transferring tool the present food labels are a bit complex for a larger population. Consumers want these food labels to be introduced in an easy-to-grasp and clean structured way so they can pick up safe, better quality, and healthy products. Consumer choices regarding food products are advancing. An undeniably more extensive range of characteristics is being considered by consumers when making an informed food decision at the moment of purchase. Even though consumers gain information about food from diverse sources, including their families, education, and the media, the food and nutrition label can give the consumer significant data at the time of purchase.

Get Regulatory Compliant Food Labels in under 5 Minutes!

References:

  1. Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations, Food Labelling, Retrieved from

    http://www.fao.org/food-labelling/en/

  2. Caswell, J. A., & Padberg, D. I. (1992). Toward a more comprehensive theory of food labels. American journal of agricultural economics74 (2), 460-468.

  3. Singla, M. (2010). Usage and understanding of food and nutritional labels among Indian consumers. British Food Journal. Roche, K. A. (2016). 

  4. Food Labeling: Applications. Encyclopedia of Food and Health, 49–55.

     doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-384947-2.00785-6 

  5. Bazzani, C., Capitello, R., Ricci, E. C., Scarpa, R., & Begalli, D. (2019). Nutritional Knowledge and Health Consciousness: Do They Affect Consumer Wine Choices? Evidence from a Survey in Italy. 

    Nutrients12(1), 84.

  6. Nunes, R., Silva, V. L., Kasemodel, M. G., Polizer, Y. J., Saes, M. S., & Fávaro-Trindade, C. S. (2020). Assessing global changing food patterns: A country-level analysis on the consumption of food products with health and wellness claims. Journal of Cleaner Production, 121613.

  7. Koen, N., Blaauw, R., & Wentzel-Viljoen, E. (2016). Food and nutrition labelling: the past, present and the way forward. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition29(1), 13-21.

  8. Temple, N. J., & Fraser, J. (2014). Food labels: a critical assessment. 

    Nutrition30(3), 257-260.

  9. Moore, M. (2001). Food labeling regulation: a historical and comparative survey.

  10. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Guidance Note/ Document on Clean and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Retrieved from

    https://fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Guidance_Document_Clean_Fresh_Fruit_Vegetable_11_05_2020.pdf

  11. Venkatachalam, R., & Madan, A. (2012). A comparative study of customer preferences towards fresh groceries: organized v/s unorganized retailers. 

    IPEDR55(38), 188-192.

  12. Official Journal of European Union. Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and the Council of 25 October 2011. Retrieved from

    https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32011R1169&from=EN

  13. Food Standards Agency. FIC Mandatory Particulars. Food Labelling e-Learning Course. Retrieved from

    Food Standards Agency - Food labelling e-learning course

  14. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (January 2016). A Food Labelling Guide. Guidance for Industry. Retrieved from

    Food Labeling Guide (fda.gov)

Author Image

Rashida Vapiwala (Founder at LabelBlind®, Food Label Specialist, Ph.D (Food Science and Nutrition))

Rashida is passionate about solving problems for the food industry using technology. She loves creating tech-led solutions in the space of Nutrition.

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