What’s in a label?

The study, by food scientist Dr Barbara Thomson, measured nutrient levels in 160 food and drinks including baby food, cereal and fruit drinks, and compared them against the claims manufacturers made on the labels. The discrepancies were glaring, with about 58% of samples not meeting the claims made on the label.

Dr Thomspon found differences in levels of vitamin C, D and A, folate, calcium, iron and selenium. Of those, 15% had fewer nutrients than claimed on the label, potentially breaching the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits false representations of products. 42.5% understated the amount of nutrients in the product, while 42.5% met the claim.

“The labels don’t necessarily reflect what’s in the food,” said Dr Thomson. “Being over the label claim can be just as bad. The work we’ve done shows that the roducts are up to five times over.”

Her tests were performed for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority over three years, with up to five batches of food being tested each day for the sake of accuracy.

According to Dr Thompson, the message to manufacturers is a wake-up call.

Dr Thomson is now taking a closer look at folate levels in products before mandatory fortification.

Findings so far will not result in action against erring manufacturers because the testing was done for monitoring purposes rather than policing.

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