Facing an enormous choice, persuasive advertising, conflicting nutritional information about what is “good” for us, but restricted by a limited budget – shopping for food can be a bit of a nightmare.
Organising in advance saves time and money if your going marketing for the week, it is sensible to roughly plan the week’s menus and make out a shopping list accordingly, topping up with stores or frozen foods where necessary.
Most people find that the more they go to the shops the more they spend, and that just buying one day’s food at a time tends to be expensive.
Labelling and nutritional labelling
Everyone wants value for money and a good way to get this is to study labels carefully.
People often complain about food labelling, some wanting more information and others less. Food labels are there to help, it would be impossible to make an informed choice if all those packets, bottles, jars and tins were not properly labelled. Conversely, it would be hopeless if every bit of information, wanted by every pressure group, went onto the label would just resemble a micro print-out of a railway timetable.
There are now voluntary guidelines as to which foods should be labelled with details of their nutritional value and how the labelling should be standardised.
Many manufacturers and supermarket chains are already using nutritional labelling and many more are likely to do so as market research shows that this increases sales.
All pre-packed foods and almost all non-prepacked foods must be named. Some names are prescribed by law eg: orange squash; wholemeal bread; fresh potatoes which must include the variety, and melons which must include the species.
Other foods have traditional names like pizza, muesli, fish fingers and Eccles cakes.
Foods which do not fall into these two categories must have a descriptive name, one indicating the true nature of the food and yet precise enough to distinguish it from similar products, e.g. a malted milk drink from a chocolate milk drink.
Unless it is obvious, the name should say the condition the food is in, for example powdered, dried or smoked.
For meat and fish that has been frozen, but sold thawed, the label must always include the words ‘previously frozen – do not refreeze.’
Names should not mislead this is particularly important in the so-called “health foods” or “Farmhouse-made’ cannot be used if the product has never seen the inside of a farmhouse.
Claims that foods are suitable for slimmers or other people on special diets must be backed up with supporting information on the label.
Labels must contain a complete list of ingredients – this shows in descending order of weight what exactly went into the food.
Even water must now be included in this list if it makes up more than 5% of the total finished weight. Food additives are strictly controlled for safety and are usually listed by the category names which explain their use.
Generally, this name will be followed by the category names which explain their use. Generally, this name will be followed by the additives’ chemical name or serial number, e.g. “Flavour enhancer – monosodium glutamate.” “Preservative – E. 200”
The name and address of the manufacturer, packager or seller in the E. E. C. must appear on the label. If a shopper is likely to be materially misled as to the real origin of a food, then the place where it is made should be also on the label.
Net weight has to be given and when necessary or not obvious, the Instructions for Use.
Until recently, retailers voluntarily marked food usually with a ‘Sell by’ date mainly as an aid to good stock rotation.
It is now compulsory for most foods, notable exceptions being: fresh fruit and vegetables, bakery products, sugar, deep frozen foods and ices, most alcoholic drinks but not beer, vinegar and salt; to be date marked and with new methods of manufacture and packaging, this is now essential information for the consumer.
“Best before” the date mark is based on the period of time for which a food is expected to be just as the manufacturer intended it, providing it is properly stored.
Usually it is the form “Best before”, followed by day, month and the year. The year may be omitted if the food will remain at its best for longer than three months: the phrase then used is “Best before end” followed by the month and year.
“Sell by” perishable foods like yoghurts which the manufacturer intends to be eaten within six weeks of purchasing may be marked with a “Sell by” date. The label should also state the time within which the food should then be eaten and the storage instructions.
Since manufacturers base their date marks on the assumption that food will be properly stored, it is essential that storage instructions, especially relating to a temperature, refrigeration and humidity, are complied with.
Provided that food is still for human consumption, it is not against the law to sell a product after expiry of date mark, as long as the customer realises this.
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