Consumers must educate themselves about what’s good for them and not
India, one of the strongest emerging economies of the world, isn’t far behind when it comes to disseminating information to its consumers regarding food quality and safety.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India promotes stringent regulations and standards for all the food products in the market. Hence, it becomes mandatory for food companies to display detailed nutritional labelling on the product. This information protects consumers from getting cheated and helps them make informed decisions.
However, several questions arise. Are Indian consumers aware of the labels on food packages? If yes, are they able to understand the displayed information in a simple and effective manner?
A nutritional label is not an ancient manuscript that is difficult to decipher. Consumers just need to educate themselves about the requirement of their body and understanding labels becomes as easy as ABC. Take fruit beverages. Whether in bottles or cartons, they display a chart of ingredients and nutrients present.
Consumers must read these labels to make sure these beverages meet their daily dietary requirement and consumption criteria.
Serving size is a measurement of quantity, be it in litres or millilitres. It gives information about the calories and amount of nutrient in the beverage. For example, if one serving gives you 100 calories, then two servings obviously mean the double of what you get with one. Per serving of 1 cup (200 ml) means 100 calories, total fat-14 g and cholesterol-15 mg Double serving is two cups (400 ml), 200 calories, total fat-28 g and cholesterol-30 mg. Therefore read before you consume any fruit drink.
Calories depict the amount of energy we get from this serving. Sometimes, we consume more calories than nutrients in our recommended dietary allowances (RDA). The number of servings is directly proportional to the number of calories. A precise calculation on this can help you control your weight.
As per the National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008/2009-2011/2012 the sugar intake of an average person in Britain is almost 700g a week, which amounts to 140 teaspoons. And 500 ml of cold drink has 17 cubes of sugar.
Fruit beverages are broadly classified into drinks, nectars and juices.
Fruit drinks: Fruit drink or ready-to-serve fruit beverages are calorically sweetened beverages with the least content of fruit juice. These are prepared from juice or pulp or puree or concentrated juice or pulp of sound mature fruit. The ingredients that may be added to fruit juice or pulp are water, peel oil, fruit essences and flavours, salt, sugar, invert sugar, liquid glucose, milk and other ingredients appropriate to the product and processed by heat.
Sometimes, fortifiers like calcium or vitamin C are also added. Beverages under this category are inexpensive and sold the most.
Fruit nectars: These have an average 20-40 per cent of fruit content, added sugars/sweeteners and aromas. Most nectars, other than orange and pineapple (40 per cent of fruit juice) contain 20 per cent fruit juice.
Fruit juices: These have 100 per cent fruit content with no additives or preservatives and are an excellent addition to the health regime, providing vitamins and minerals. These contain natural ingredients present in fruits and vegetables, such as fruit pulp, natural flavours, juice concentrate and water.
These are the healthiest among the three categories owing to the 100 per cent fruit content. Always check the date of manufacture and expiry. The MFD written on the labels means manufacture date (that date when the fruit juice was produced and packaged). Expiry date mentioned on the label makes clear the date after which the fruit juice is not good for consumption and must be discarded.
Juice versus whole fruit: During the process of juice extraction, many water-soluble vitamins are lost. Moreover, the whole fruit is a source of dietary fibre, fruit juice actually contains little to no fibre; 100 per cent fruit juice can have fibres but in less quantity.
For instance, a cup of apple juice has 0.2 gm of fibre, while a whole apple contains 3.3 gm. One cup of orange juice has 0.5 gm of fibre while a cup of fresh raw orange has 4.3 gm. If you need to choose, whole fruit should be your choice.
Roadside versus packaged fruit juices: Packaged fruit juices undergo mild pasteurisation before packaging to prevent growth of micro-organisms. Fruit juices packaged in cartons do not even need refrigeration or preservatives for up to one year. Further, before filling the beverages, the outside package is sterilised using ultra-high temperature process, preventing any kind of contamination within. Thus, juices available in packages are healthier than the street variants.
Puffed packages: Swollen or puffed cartons are the result of microbial action that leads to fermentation and contamination of the fruit beverage. The puffiness is due to this chemical reaction inside that leads to production of gas, and thus the fruit beverage must not be consumed.
Often, the food consumer is guided more by brand and taste rather than the health criterion. But since food labelling policies and regulation ensure that we know what we are eating, it is in our hands to choose nutrition over other factors.
Vitamin C is a weekly dose of consumer empowerment
Consumers must educate themselves about what’s good for them and not The writer is Senior Vice President, Consumer Product Services, TUV SUD South Asia
Source: The Hindu – Business Line