Modern policies that regulate food production and retail standards indicate that information on health and nutrition of food products should be included on food labels or packaging. The long existence of this practice, albeit increased criticism from particular sectors, underscores values modern consumers gain from having information regarding what they are buying. Food manufacturers often deem this practice as both expensive and giving away unnecessary information to the consumer. Despite this, health and nutrition information on food packaging has helped regulate practices within the sensitive food production and consumption industry to ensure customer’s safety.
Although food labels may have been in existence for a long time, their relevance within the modern era was only recently realized. For instance, the US, which has historically had a vibrant food production industry, enacted the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act in 1990 (Fortin, 2013). Merits gained by the introduction of this enactment led to the introduction of other acts such as the Food and Drug Administration Act in 2006 and the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Act in 2007 (Fortin, 2013). These acts made it mandatory for food manufacturers to provide insightful information regarding a product through food labels. Information such as the amount of trans-fats or allergens in a product that was traditionally absent has helped customers make safe and convenient choices when purchasing when buying food products.
A general growth in health standards, occasioned through customers’ ability to choose healthy products, is one key attribute of food labels. Through studying food labels, customers learn good foodstuffs to consume for good nutrition. According to McCarthy (2008), specific details on food group or mineral content in a product helps customers manage their dietary intake. These details have also gained relevance in non-food domains such as healthcare and fitness development. For instance, dieticians and fitness instructors are able to advice their patients or clients on good products to buy, based on individual dietary requirements (McGuire & Beerman, 2013).
While relevant stakeholders have tried to improve food standards for consumers, there is still high prevalence rate of unhealthy food products in the market. For instance, trans-fat food products considered unhealthy are widely circulated in modern markets. New studies have also determined that common preservatives, coloring and flavoring chemicals used during food processing pose a great risk to the health of individuals (Fortin, 2013). Without information on the contents of a product, customers may consume chemicals that may be fatal.
Cautionary relevance seems to be a common attribute provided through food labels. This is particularly relevant for individuals who develop allergic reactions to particular foods. According to Fortin (2013), the fatal nature of unhealthy food products to individuals is underscored by an increase in people who have died of suggested food-related causes, and in particular allergic reactions. Products information on common allergenic foods such as peanuts, fish and soya beans has generally helped reduce the number of allergic reaction cases.
Great strides have been made within modern societies to ensure the safety of consumers through providing relevant information regarding food products. Despite this, there are still some concerns regarding how consumers interpret this information. The context of terminology used in food labels may also be misleading, which makes it important that customer closely scrutinize health and nutrition information before making an informed choice to purchase a product.
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