We live in the age of high health-consciousness, and people are paying close attention to what they consume more than ever before. People are also eating food items from a variety of sources – including grab and go food items via convenience stores and prepacked items from their local grocery store. Laws require manufactured foods to carry labels containing nutritional information, but manufacturers keep coming up with ways to mislead consumers.

Given the complexity of food labeling regulations, it’s no surprise the average person doesn’t understand the labels correctly. It’s more important now than ever to know how to read labels and distinguish fact from fiction.

Disregard the Front Labels

What you may think is a health claim, is often a marketing pitch or advertisement. Even though the government approved claims like “light” or “low fat” might sound healthy, in most cases, they don’t tell the whole story. “Light” ice cream may not differ much from regular ice cream calorically. Even though it carries the “light” label, it can still pack 4-5 grams of fat per serving.

The latest nutrition craze has caused many companies to promote their products based on a single item, so a “fat-free” or “gluten-free” food can also be full of sugar and empty calories.

Pay Attention to the Nutrition Fact Panel 

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made significant changes in the regulations around labeling. Among other changes, companies are required to include an updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings” as well as indicate the number of serving sizes that reflect how much food people usually eat. Declaration of grams and a percent daily value for added sugars is also obligatory now, as are dual column labels that indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information.

When you look at product ingredients, it helps to know that they are listed by quantity, starting with the highest amount. The elements at the bottom of the list are the least present. A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to the first three ingredients because those are the ones that make up the most considerable part of the product. Try to choose products with whole foods listed as the first three ingredients.

Amount of Servings Per Package and Serving Sizes

Many years ago, a majority of products were, in fact, single servings. A bottle of cola was one serving; a small candy bar was also one serving. Today, however, in the age of super-sized packaging, most products contain multiple servings.

A 20-ounce bottle of soda contains two and a half servings – each serving packing 110 calories. If you drink the whole thing – you will be having two servings of soda so make sure you multiply those digits accordingly. Manufacturers often use the serving scheme to deceive us into thinking the food isn’t rich in calories, or that it has less sugar and fat than it does. Don’t be fooled!

Having clear and concise labels matters to your customer base. Automated labeling solutions can help you avoid the pitfalls of having inaccurate nutritional information listed on your food packaging. Consumers favor products that have no hidden surprises. Being forthcoming about what you produce and how you produce it is essential to maintaining transparency and trust.