Tackling the sticky issue of food labelling

“Grocery shopping” is a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of many consumers. As if the price tags and the crowds weren’t bad enough, navigating through the food itself can be a huge hassle.

Current food labelling regulations leave a lot to be desired.

There is no standard for serving sizes, which makes it difficult to compare the health benefits (or drawbacks) between brands. Ingredient lists are often written in tiny print at the bottom of the package and squinting at names that are nearly impossible to pronounce becomes frustrating.

A major problem is that consumers often don’t even know what they’re looking for when they read ingredient lists on food packages.

For example, there are over 50 different names for sugar alone. Among them are corn syrup and cane juice crystals, which most can probably recognize as sugar.

But there are also others that you might be surprised to learn are really just fancy names for sugar: barley malt, dextrose, ethyl maltol and panocha.

The current food labels, which include the front of the food package, the nutrition facts table and the ingredient list, are contributing to the declining health of Canadians.

In order for consumers to understand what they are eating and to improve their health, we need to have a complete overhaul of the current food labelling regulations.

And that’s where the Food Label Movement, an organization I founded with Nicole Choptain, comes in.

The Food Label Movement seeks to increase transparency between food manufacturers and consumers by appealing to the Canadian government to re-think the current food labelling laws and improve them.

At present, there are too many consumers who are frustrated by food packages and who are unaware of what – and how much – they are eating.

In an effort to promote awareness and to see changes at the governmental level, the movement has created a petition for consumers who want to see improved nutrition labels to sign. You can sign this petition at www.tinyurl.com/food-petition.

The organization is also planning a march around Winnipeg’s Legislative building in the spring or summer of 2011.

In the months leading up to the march, we’ll be hosting events and attending conferences in keeping with the mission.

Among a list of 15 other suggestions, the Food Label Movement recommends listing all separate sugary ingredients in a bracketed list under the heading of “sugar” in the ingredient lists on food packages.

Amounts of sodium, mandatory nutrition labelling at restaurants and disclosure of caffeine content and genetically modified ingredients are also changes that we’d like to see made.
For more information about nutrition labels and how they can be improved, go to www.thefoodlabelmovement.org.

Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor. Check out her health and wellness blog at www.livingintherealworld.net/healthy.

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