Here we focus on how to read food labels and what ingredients to look out for. Sometimes it appears that the more we know the more we do not want to know as the information can become overwhelming. However when it comes to our eating or feeding our children it is good to know this kind of information. We can then make an educated choice when choosing our food. It may seem difficult when you first start but once you get the idea and become familiar with ingredients (and codes) shopping gets easy again.
How to read food labels
EXAMPLE Hot dog or cocktail Frankfurt:
INGREDIENTS: MEAT INCLUDING PORK (75%), WATER, CEREAL BINDER (WHEAT), STARCH (POTATO/PEA/TAPIOCA), SALT, SOY PROTEIN, MINERAL SALTS (451,452), DEXTROSE
(FROM WHEAT), SUGAR, SPICES AND SPICE EXTRACTS, ANTIOXIDANTS (316), PRESERVATIVE (223), SODIUM NITRATE (250), LACTOSE, HYDROLYSED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (FROM SOY), EDIBLE CASING, COLOURS (120, 160b, 160c)
Firstly: The first ingredient listed has the greatest amount in the product. The last ingredient listed has the smallest content in the product. In the above example Meat tis the main ingredient. Often in Tomato sauce and the first ingredient listed is sugar so you know from this that the level of sugar in the sauce is more than the tomato. If it is a caution list substance then even if it is at the end of the product list it is best to be avoided. Like in the frankfurts above even thou the colours are at the end this product is best to be avoided.
Secondly: Sometimes the name of the chemical is listed and/or sometimes the number of the substance is listed for example (223). People are becoming more familiar with the numbers so manufactures now in some instances are writing the chemical hoping we still buy the product. So the trick is to familiarise yourself with both names and numbers. For example 223 is Sodium Metabisulphite. Every number specifies a substance some bad some good. Not all numbers are bad for your children.
Thirdly: If your child is allergenic or intolerant to substances like wheat, egg, lactose or preservatives it is always good to be able to read labels. Sugar can be hidden in the form of Sucrose - cane sugar, Fructose - fruit sugar, Dextrose - another name for glucose, Lactose - milk sugar or Glucose - what sugar breaks down to. Egg may be written as albumin. Wheat can simply just be written as flour. If looking for foods with out wheat look for “wheat free” products or “gluten free” products.
This article is simplified as it is a huge subject and every additive could be an article in its own right. It is encouraged to purchase an up to date additive book and do searches on the internet. Here is a list of the ones noted to be cautious of and avoid where possible. At the end is a list that could be cut out and fit in your purse/wallet to refer to.
Food additives to be cautious of:
102 – Tartrazine
107- Yellow 2G
110 – Sunset Yellow FCF
122 - Carmoisine
123 – Amaranth(red)
124 – Scarlet 4R
127 – Erytyrosine(red)
128 – Red 2G
129 –Allura red
132 – Indigo Carmine
133 – Brillant Blue FCF
142 – Green S
150 - Caramel
151 – Brillant Black BN
153 – Carbo Medicinalis vegetalis(charcoal)
155 – Chocolate brown HT
160b – Annatto
Sorbates (200 – 203) – This is natural preservative but on occasions can be an irritant or cause intolerances.
Benzoates (210-213) – Found in cordial, softdrink, fruit juice, bread, sausage meats, chutney, soups, sauces, pressed meat and milk shake flavours. Can aggravate asthma, cause skin irritation, hyperactivity and neurological effects. The effects of this can be far worse if given in combination with tartrazine/102 or sodium bisulphate/222.
Sulphites (220 -228) – Found in beer, wine, tinned seafood dried fruit, dried fruit, bought potato chips, fruit juice, soft drink, cider, processed meats, sausage meats, pickles, dim sims and some bronchiodilators. These can affect asthma sufferers and interferes with thiamine absorption. Children with impaired kidney or liver function should avoid these. They can aggravate skin conditions and in some may upset the stomach.
Nitrite and Nitrates (249 – 252) – These are used in meat products. They are not meant to be used in food for infants or children as they have an affect on the bloods heamoglobin.
Propionates (280 – 283) - This can be used in bakery items like bread and crumpets. There has been links with this preservative and migraine sufferers.
Gallates (310-312) – This can be deceiving as it may not be an ingredient of the food itself. It can be used in the packaging of a product like breakfast cereals and potato chips so its vapour can affect the food. This is another additive that is not intended for infants or children. Its effects include asthma skin irritations and gastric upsets.
TBHQ, BHA, BHT (319-321) – Once again should not be in children’s or infant food. 320 can sometimes help preserve added vitamin A. However there can be a bad effect on the stomach and reported skin rashes.
Glutatmates (620 – 625) - The most common one is the MSG(621) The effects are often headaches, neurological effects, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal cramps. MSG is commonly used in Asian food but is also found in biscuit and chip flavours. Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (HVP) – not in all cases but in some cases this is another way of hiding MSG in the ingredients.
Disodium Guanylate (627) plus Disodium Inosinate (631) makes Ribonucleotide (635) – These are trouble ones and are said to be the new MSG. It can lead to bad reactions. Like MSG it can be found in instant noodles, flavoured chips, BBQ biscuits, rice crackers, packet soup, party pies, sausage rolls, seasoned chickens, gravies, some salad dressings and some flavoured sausages.
Aspartame (951) - This is found for example in low sugar chewing gum, low sugar jelly, low sugar soft drinks and low sugar chocolate. It can upset the nervous system and effects children’s behaviour. It can also affect the digestive tract and produce allergic responses.
Here is a handy purse reference you may print and cut out for use whilst shopping.
122-129, 132, 133
142, 151, 155,160b
Nitrates, nitrites 249-252
TBHQ. BHA, BHT 319-321
Glutamates and msg 620-625
Disodium guanylate 627
Disodium inosinate 631
Hydrolysed Vegetable protein
All artifical flavours
Whether this may be new to you and your family or simply a refresher it can only help.
Make the changes today and choose to be a a family free of the above substances.
See the difference, feel the difference.
Written by Maedy Colenso ND