The Israel Consumer Council and the Association for Public Health Services have launched an extensive new guide aimed at assisting consumers to understand what is written on food labels: the guide presents the guidelines for proper nutrition in an interactive format, and details the legal and health aspects of the food marking laws.
A survey carried out for the Consumer Council and the Association, by the Geocartographia survey institute, shows that the bulk of consumers pay most attention to the calorie counts and fat levels marked on the packaging. The survey also shows that the majority of Israelis consider the ingredients of a product less important than factors such as price, freshness and producer.
Only 17% take care to always read the label, with 40% of consumers not reading the label at all.
The survey also shows that the reason that people don’t bother reading the labels is that they are not interested in the information. 10% claim that they don’t understand what is written, and 10% don’t believe the data printed there.
50% of the women surveyed will read the labels, as opposed to 29% of the men.
Since the end of the 1990’s, all food companies in Israel are required to print a list of ingredients on each packaged food item. This information can help in selecting the foods that are appropriate for our personal needs, such as low-sugar or low-salt foods. The label must include, among other things, the name of the manufacturer, the place where the product was produced, the weight or volume, the last date on which the item can be sold, a list of the product’s ingredients, and recommended manner of storing it.
The law requires manufacturers to list the ingredients based on the amount of each ingredient in the product, in descending order. Thus, consumers will be able to know what the main ingredient in the product is, and whether the product name or description matches the ingredients in it. The list of ingredients is also aimed at allowing consumers to avoid those food that may cause health problems or allergic reactions. In addition, the producer is required to provide nutritional information for five food components: calories (energy), protein, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium.
Food producers are required to list all ingredients, no matter how minute their contribution to the product. Some of the ingredients appear as letters and numbers (generally these are the serial numbers for food additives – the E numbers).
In order to give us objective tools for understanding the composition of the food that we eat, laws and regulations have been enacted in Israel to regulate the manufacturers’ obligations regarding the marking of a product’s nutritional composition. The guide gives expression to the laws and regulations in this area.
CEO of the Consumer Council, Adv. Ehud Peleg: “It is the right of the consumer to determine what goes into his mouth. This is a basic right, and part of the consumer’s legally protected autonomy. There have been cases in which attempts were made to deceive the consumer, by giving incorrect information about a product’s ingredients, or by only giving partial data.
“The food guide will allow consumers to understand the significance of the markings on the label, so that they can make intelligent choices as to what to put in their mouths.”