Lifestyle posts

The labels you read

The following post is not aimed at any specific brand of product or company but based on personal experience and professional opinion.

It is no secret that the package do make the product. Even more so, the way it looks and the words used attract us.

But sometimes if not all the time we do get mislead by words like power, super and wellness, especially for our generation of young professionals that make a conscious decision to be healthy daily (because why am I then even blogging and having this website?).

Our country do have some strict food laws and regulations in a government gazette document called the R146 that stipulates clearly what can be on the packaging, what words to use and not use and more importantly, curbing the use of misleading nutritional claims when the product itself does not meet up to what it claims to be or do.

I take this super serious because I have been mislead myself. Many times. By what the product claimed to be and what I actually got. For someone who has the background and know what to look for its easy to get out of being mislead, but for the normal consumer its not so easy. But that’s why I’m here, to inform you about food labelling laws so you can continue to be healthy without being mislead.

Why regulate food laws and labels

In the past a lot of especially food companies got away with putting false and untrue claims and statements on their product labels. Many times negatively affecting the health of the population. But in March 2010 the food labelling and advertising regulation (R146) was passed and there now are laws they have to adhere to before they can make their product available for the consumer. Regulations are in place to 

  1. state only the facts of the said products
  2. not confuse the consumer by words or implications
  3. to see the label as a means of education rather than confusion.


The mandatory information required on labels (these things cannot be left out)

  • The accurate name of the product informing the consumer of what exactly is in the packaging.
  • The ingredient list in descending order
  • All allergens must be identified
  • The country of origin
  • a Batch and identity number
  • The use by and Best before dates
  • The typical nutrition information table for all products.


Words and food labels – What may and may not appear on the packaging 

  • The % fat free. Instead it must read “contains x % fat”.
  • Nutritious or other words implying the same thing. Including the word goodness.
  • The words healthy, healthful, health or other words implying the same thing
  • Wholesome, complete nutrition, balance nutrition or any words implying the same thing
  • “sugar free” and “fat free” are only allowed if specific conditions as set out in the food labelling regulations are met.
  • “suitable for diabetics”, “diabetic friendly” or words with suitable meaning, may technically not be used.
  • Descriptive words must be carefully chosen to ensure that no implied claims are inadvertently made and that descriptions like “home-made” or “natural” fall within the codex definitions.


Claims – statement made regarding the content of the package 

Regulation 146 covers limited specific claims with specifics to the wording of the claims that must be adhered to on the label or advertising of the product.

  • Certain provisions must be met for any claim made; No calculated nutritional information is allowed in this case. Specifics is needed.
  • Regulation 149 (R149) has more of the nutritional claims and the tests it needs to pass to be able to claim the statement made
  • Endorsements of products can only be done by an organisation where the endorsement programme is run by professionals, and where specifications have been set up in keeping up with the latest research.

As in the example of product in the image, it claims to be high in multiple vitamins including iron fibre and zinc. But it is not high in omega 3, it just lists it as a source. But this in itself will attract customers because it mentions a good fatty acid. And technically there is noting wrong with it, it is just good branding. Keep in mind it might be a source of omega 3, but the amounts it is in (especially per serving) might not have any effect on your health at all.


Another one of my favourite. This one claims low sodium and low fat. Whether it is high or low claims, these products need to adhere to certain tests to be able to make these claims. So rest assured they are adherent otherwise they would not be on the shelves.

This is but a drop in the bucket when it comes to food labelling and regulations. And I do feel lots more need to be done when it comes to restricting the use of words especially words like sources of, power, super and raw. Case in point feature in the image above. Unnecessary use of the word power to ‘boost’ and imply that this type of plant protein has power. side note, all and any type of plant protein is powerful.

Click here to read more on the food label topic.

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  1. Plant powered protein – is targeting vegetarians like me. I bought three products from that new range to try today. I don’t find that use of ‘power’ deceptive – I understand it as their way to promote vegetarianism.

    What I loathe is labels written in teensy tiny print. The information is there, but who can read it?!

  2. It works quite well for me

  3. Thanks for the terrific post

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  7. […] Be more attentive as to what is in the products you buy. It’s very easy for us to get fooled with big science names and clever word play. Click here to read more on food labelling. […]

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