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Tips for deciphering food labels

How much do you look at food labels before purchasing food? Even foods that look simple may contain more ingredients or additives than expected, or you may be surprised to find something unexpected is used as a flavoring when you check the label on the back. Processed foods are packaged and labeled with a wealth of information, including various chemicals, weights, and percentages. Unfortunately, this labeling is not always easy to understand. However, food labels play a significant role. They are an essential source of information for consumers to correctly understand the contents and make safe and secure choices when purchasing food products. For this reason, the Food Labeling Law requires all foods sold to consumers to be labeled.

Since fresh foods such as agricultural, livestock, and marine products are subject to a different labeling system, this section describes food labels focusing on “processed foods,” which are packaged in containers and packaging. Processed foods packaged in packs, cans, bags, etc., are labeled with the name, ingredients, additives, origin of ingredients, content, best before date, storage method, and manufacturer. Imported products are also labeled with the name of the country of origin and importer.

Ingredients” are listed in the order of the percentage of weight used, with the most common names clearly listed. Additives are listed separately from the ingredients in a similar column. In addition, when allergens are included among the ingredients, “Allergy Labeling” is also an important item of life-threatening importance. The seven “specified raw materials” must be labeled are eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, shrimp, buckwheat, and crab. 21 other “items equivalent to specified raw materials” must be labeled. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

アレルギーチャート
Food allergy icon (7 specific raw materials, 21 recommended labeling items)

Allergens displayed

7 items that are always displayed (specified raw materials)

Shrimp, crab, wheat, buckwheat, egg, milk, peanuts

21 items recommended for labeling (equivalent to specific raw materials)

Almonds, abalone, squid, how much, oranges, cashew nuts, kiwifruit, beef, walnuts, sesame, salmon, mackerel, soybeans, chicken, bananas, pork, matsutake mushrooms, thighs, yam, apples, gelatin

With the enforcement of the Food Labeling Law in April 2020, “nutrition labeling” is now required to label calories (energy), protein, lipids, carbohydrates, and sodium in that order. Some other nutritional components are recommended, and some are optionally labeled.

Next, the “best-by date” is the time limit for eating deliciously, and it can be attached to foods that deteriorate relatively slowly and last for a long time. It is better not to eat after the “expiration date,” it can be attached to foods that deteriorate quickly and are easily damaged. All of them have an unopened storage period, so it is recommended to consume the product as soon as possible after opening. “Storage method” clearly states the appropriate storage method, so be sure to store the product accordingly.

As you can see, many things are indicated on food labels are according to a set of rules. Unfamiliar names may seem complicated, but the uniform labeling method and order are designed to make them easy for consumers to understand. Understanding the contents of foods, the nutritional components associated with them, the storage method, and the period of time will surely help you to maintain your own health and make food choices.

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