Wake Up, Philippines!

The truth is in the label

Posted in Consumer by Erineus on February 24, 2009

By Atty. Gaby Concepcion

BEFORE I became a mother of four, I used to think that the labels on food products sounded like legalese—if not Greek—to me. It seemed much easier to read and understand the Comprehensive Tax Reform Act or the Tariff and Customs Code than comprehend what was written on the back of food labels.

Like me, well-meaning consumers may have been confused by the competing health claims of today’s food products. But as any wise consumer knows, we should not rely solely on these claims peddled by advertisements when picking goods off the shelf.

In choosing which brand of food products to buy for the family, how can the average consumer separate the hype from the truth? This is where the product’s food labels would come in handy.

Why I read the label

Food labels are required by law and are indispensable tools for a consumer in the exercise of their right to information and choice. These labels provide a tangible and efficient way to compare similar products of different brands, to see if all the important nutrients are present in their products. Nutrition information in food labels should be able to back up their touted health claims.

As a young, busy mother, I used to rely heavily on advertisements in making choices for my children—trusting in a milk brand’s claims that it was “the best” for my children’s growth and providing the necessary nutrients like protein (for muscles) and calcium (for bones) to nourish their rapidly growing bodies.

That was until my pediatrician warned me that my milk brand may actually contain too many calories, sugar and fat. A closer look at its food label—and comparing it with other milk brands—not only confirmed my pediatrician’s suspicions but also did reveal many interesting facts. It also taught me an invaluable lesson on how to be an empowered consumer by the mere expedient of reading and comparing food labels.

Calcium, DHA, and probiotics for kids

Aside from supporting your child’s physical growth, the nutrients in milk products should ideally be able to help aid their mental development. For the latter, pore over the food labels to see which ones have good DHA-fortification.

Playful as they are, kids’ still-fragile immune systems would also need special ingredients fortified in their food or milk like probiotics. The support for increased protection provided by probiotics like Lactobacillus Protectus would help keep their bodies strong against a variety of diseases and infection.

Calcium, iron and vitamin C for adults

When it comes to adult milk products, calcium is one of the most looked-for ingredients. Calcium is an important nutrient—especially for us adult women—for safeguarding bones against osteoporosis.

So if a product claims to help fight osteoporosis, be sure to look for the amount of calcium it contains.

Women who are going through heavy periods are especially vulnerable to anemia. This can be prevented by increasing their iron intake, which fortunately may also be provided by milk.

But before you go looking for the most iron-rich products, check out also their vitamin C content. Vitamin C helps our bodies absorb iron better, and has been shown to reduce the hot flushes commonly experienced by menopausal women.

Don’t get duped

Consumers shouldn’t rely solely on advertisements in acknowledging a product’s nutritional benefits. By reading and understanding the nutrition facts printed at the back of the package, you’ll know what nutrients it contains and how much of them you are getting, and which ones you are missing out on. Reading the product’s fine print and comparing it with others can help us choose the best value for our health and money would help a lot in making better, well-informed buying decisions.

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=goodLife5_feb24_2009

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