A study carried out in 2010 in Ireland tried to answer some of the questions above. This study analysed 267 samples of food products on sale for their nutritional content. They looked at things like:
- And more
They then compared the actual figure of how much of each nutrient was in the food sample with the amount specified on the label. The results are quite interesting!
“On average 51% of nutrition labels were higher and 45% were lower than analysis values...”
Wow. Add that up and 96% of the information wasn’t accurate! A little more detail shows that 40% of the figures for energy (Calories / Joules) were over 5% ‘out’ and that almost 10% of the numbers for fats and sugar were over 100% ‘out’.
Reverse your way of looking at it and this shows that 60% of labels for energy are within 5% and 90% for fats and sugar are within 100% (half or double the specified value).
Even if you’re lucky enough to have a product that’s in the more accurate group then your numbers are still going to have a big difference. If the calories are 5% out and you’re a man eating the recommended 2500 calories a day then you could actual be ‘over eating’ or ‘under eating’ by 125 calories per day, or 875 per week. Remember this is for the more accurate labels – 875 calorie miss-match per week! Imagine what it’d be like for the less accurate ones.
To summarise, it can be difficult to live your life by the label. If you’re a strict label inspector then maybe you’ll just have to take those values with a pinch of salt (no pun intended). Our suggestion – still have a look if you want, but don’t base your food choices on the label. Base your food choice on what you believe to be better food – less processed, less additives etc.
We know this information can be a little shocking, so please feel free to discuss or ask questions in the comments section on Facebook or the blog page on our website.
Source - Food Safety Authority Ireland, Accuracy of Nutrition Labelling of Pre-Packed Food in Ireland, July 2010