Food labelling: what does the information on the packaging mean?
You'll find lots of information on food packaging which helps you choose a balanced and varied selection of food when you go shopping. We'll help you understand food labelling better.
Coop own-label brands all feature the Coop food profile. This presents the key nutritional information in a clear and easily understandable way.
The front of the packaging shows how much energy a product contains. You can also see what proportion of the daily energy requirement a portion of the food product provides (shown as a percentage). To keep you even better informed – wherever possible and practical – we also display on the front how much fat, saturated fatty acids, sugar and salt a portion of the product contains.
You'll usually find the Coop food profile on the back of the packaging. It shows how much energy, fat, saturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, sugar, fibre, protein and salt the product contains. Nutritional values can be subject to natural variation, therefore the values stated are averages. The values are stated per 100 g/100 ml and per portion. The portion sizes given are as realistic as possible and are stated in grams, in teaspoons, per item, per bar, per glass, etc., depending on the product.
Find out more here about the values shown in the Coop food profile:
The kilocalories (kcal) and kilojoules (kJ) in a food tell us how much energy it provides to our body.
Fat and saturated fatty acids
Fats provide 9 kilocalories per gram – more than double the number in carbohydrates and proteins. It is recommended that we source 20 to 35% of our daily energy requirement from fats. Saturated fats should make up less than 10% of our daily energy consumption, as they can negatively impact our health.
Carbohydrates and sugar
Carbohydrates (including sugar) provide 4 kilocalories per gram. In total we should get 45 to 55% of our daily energy requirement from carbohydrates. The sugar content given on the packaging is the total of both added sugars (e.g. refined sugar and honey) and naturally occurring sugars (e.g. in milk and fruit). We should be consuming no more than 50 grams of added sugar per day. You can find more information about reducing sugar in everyday life in our guide.
Dietary fibre (roughage) is a type of carbohydrate. We are able to digest it with the help of bacteria in our gut, but only partially. For this reason it yields less energy: just 2 kilocalories per gram. We should consume 30 grams of dietary fibre each day.
Protein provides 4 kilocalories per gram. 15% of our daily energy requirement should come from protein.
The percentage on the far right of the Coop food profile shows how much of our daily requirement a portion of the food product contains. It is based on the legally defined average requirement for an adult (2000 kilocalories or 8400 kilojoules). The daily requirement for individual people may be higher or lower than this, however.
The list of ingredients shows all the ingredients contained in a food product, in descending order. The nearer to the beginning of the list an ingredient is, the more of it the product contains. There are a few things to be aware of here:
- Quantity details: For some ingredients the exact quantity must be stated in the list of ingredients. E.g. if a strawberry yoghurt has the word "strawberry" in the product name, the amount of strawberry contained in the yoghurt is specifically stated in the ingredient list.
- Ingredients with more than one component: Some products contain ingredients that have multiple components (e.g. chocolate). If an ingredient with multiple components makes up 2% or more of a product, the individual components must be listed in brackets. For a muffin containing chocolate, for example, the ingredient list could be: Spelt flour, butter, chocolate 3% (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter,emulsifier [E 322 made from soya]).
Which people really do need the information on food labels? It's particularly important, of course, for people who have an allergy or intolerance. In our guide to allergen labelling we tell you how to easily recognize allergens on the list of ingredients.
In addition to the list of ingredients and the nutritional values, information on a product's shelf life is also important. If you're wondering "Can I still eat that?" then take a look at the best-before date or use-by date.
- Best-before date ("Best before ...")
The best-before date is the date of minimum durability for a food product. The manufacturer guarantees that up until that date, if the product has been stored correctly, its quality will be uncompromised. Products can often still be eaten after that date. In our guide to "Climate-friendly eating" we tell you how to decide if you can still eat a product that has passed its best-before date.
- Use-by date ("Use by ...")
Foods which are highly perishable, such as raw meat, have a use-by date. This is the date up to which a food product can safely be eaten as long as it has been stored correctly. Once the use-by date has passed, the product is not safe to eat as it could contain harmful microbiological organisms.
The shelf life information is valid only if the product is still unopened, in its original packaging and has been stored correctly (according to the information on the packaging). If this is not the case, the shelf life of the food product may be shorter.