Good Nutrition Advice

For a healthy body and mind

Category: Reading Food Labels

How Important are Best Before Dates?

How important are best before dates

How important are best before dates

We’re all familiar with ‘best before’ dates. Along with lists of ingredients and nutritional information, they are a mainstay on food packaging in the UK.

These dates appear in many different forms. Firms such as LabelsPlus provide a host of labelling options for food manufacturers to take advantage of. Often, this information appears on sticky labels and sometimes it is printed directly onto the packaging itself. Regardless of how it is presented, this information is important. It can help you to make savvy purchasing decisions and avoid health risks. But they can also be confusing. The following guide should help you get to grips with these dates.

‘Best Before’ versus ‘Use By’

It’s important to distinguish between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. Use by dates are the most important source of information. The Food Standards Agency and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs note that these dates apply strictly to food safety.

As a general rule, you should avoid eating products that have gone past their use by dates or else risk making yourself sick. Bear in mind that it is an offence for firms to sell food after this date has passed. This highlights the importance of the issue.

In contrast, best before dates relate to the quality of food and drink products. In other words, if goods have gone past this point, they may not be as good in terms of their taste, appearance and texture.

A Note on Eggs

It’s worth noting that in the past, the Food Standards Agency made an exception with eggs. The organisation advised that these products should not be sold or consumed after their best before dates. This was because the items can contain salmonella bacteria. If salmonella is present in eggs, it can multiply rapidly and cause food poisoning.

However, the body has revised its guidance. It now suggests that as long as eggs are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after this date. According to the agency, eggs that have gone passed their best before dates by this margin should still be safe providing both the yolks and the whites are heated until solid. They can also be used in dishes where they are fully cooked, like cakes.

The Importance of Cutting Waste

When you’re referring to best before dates to determine whether or not products are still edible, it’s important to use some common sense. All too often, food is thrown away too early over unnecessary concerns about its safety. Highlighting the huge problem of food waste, a report produced by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has suggested that as much as half of all the food produced in the world ends up as waste. This amounts to around two billion tonnes each year. Over-adherence to best before dates could be contributing to this problem.

Certain products are very unlikely to cause poisoning even when they are considerably beyond their best before dates. For example, it’s easy to tell whether fresh fruit and vegetables are OK to eat by the way they look, feel and smell. Tomatoes are a good case in point. They are often at their best a week or more after their ‘best before’ date suggests.

In contrast, you have to be much more careful with certain types of meat and fish. For instance, chicken can deteriorate in condition very quickly so it’s best not to eat it much beyond its best before date. If you detect any unpleasant odour from the flesh, it isn’t worth taking the risk.

As a general rule, best before dates serve as a guide. You can’t rely solely on this information when you’re deciding whether or not to eat certain products. If you’re ever unsure about the condition of a particular food, you can get further information about its safety online.

 

Dangers of Food Additives

ABOUT 540 food additives and over 4,500 flavouring agents are allowed in food.

The vast majority of these additives are used to disguise and alter the flavour, appearance and texture of food and drink so cheap ingredients such as water, starches, sugars and fats can be made to resemble ‘real’ food.

Some additives have ‘E’ numbers and must be listed as ingredients, either by their ‘E’ number or by their full name (e.g. E621 or Monosodium Glutamate).

Other additives, such as processing aids, are not listed at all. Flavourings are not listed as separate ingredients, but are simply listed as ‘flavourings’ in the ingredients list, so it’s difficult to tell what you are really eating.

There is strong evidence that some additives can affect our health and even children’s behaviour. For example, the commonly used preservative Sulphur Dioxide (E220) can cause asthma in susceptible individuals, but no warning is given on food and drink labels.

Cocktails of additives make numerous juice drinks enticing to children, while added vitamins give ‘mum appeal’. An example of this is the popular ‘fruit’ drink Vimto. With just 5% juice Vimto contains Citric Acid (E330), Anthocyanins (E163), Potassium Sorbate (E202), Sodium Benzoate (E211), Dimethyldicarbonate (E242), Trisodium Citrate (E331), Sucralose, Acesulfame K (E950) and unidentified flavouring agents. Like many juice drinks you may also question whether it is good value for money.

The Juice Drink Scam

Pure fruit juice contains 100% fruit juice, as you would expect. But some juice drinks contain as little as 3% juice. Many so-called juice drinks actually contain more water and sugar than actual juice and often include flavourings, artificial sweeteners and colourings.

Calypso’s Tom & Jerry Apple & Blackcurrant juice drink contains only 8% juice. You would have to spend about £12.50 and buy 50 cartons before you would have a single litre of pure juice. Or you could buy a whole litre of low price, pure orange juice for under 50p.

References: The Food Commission

Avoid Chemicals Especially If You Are Pregnant

Avoid chemicals if you're pregnant

Avoid chemicals if you’re pregnant

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for all of us to avoid — as best we can — the toxic chemicals that surround us. 

We microwave plastic, we cover our fatty foods with cling film, we let water bottled in plastic sit in the sunshine… We bring dreadful chemicals into our homes every day as cleaning products, air ‘fresheners and even soaps and cosmetics.

Read the list of ingredients on everything you buy and you will find little or nothing on the High Street that isn’t full of potentially harmful ingredients.

Now, pregnant women are being warned not to use antibacterial soaps because they contain triclosan, a chemical that hinders an enzyme called oestrogen sulfotransferase that helps metabolise oestrogen and move it through the placenta into the developing foetus. There, the oestrogen plays a crucial role in brain development and the regulation
of genes.

However, triclosan and triclocarban are used in more than 2,000 everyday products marketed as antimicrobial, including toothpastes, soaps, detergents, carpets, paints, school supplies and toys, so frankly, antibacterial soap is just the tip of the iceberg. And they may also be responsible for the growing antibiotic resistance we are seeing today.

Published in the journal Environment International, the German and Danish study tested almost 100 everyday chemicals — and discovered that a third affected sperm, suggesting that the endless number and amount of chemicals in products we use every day may be contributing to the widespread fertility problems in the Western world.

So please, pregnant or not, spend a little extra time and possibly money on organic household cleansers, soaps, cosmetics and especially baby products — yes, they are full of chemical nasties too…

Do you have a health challenge that you’d like to discuss with me? I offer online Naturopathic and Nutrition Consultations. Fill out my forms here to book your personal consultation with me.

Thank you!
Fiona

Natural Choices

Natural CoursesIf you’re interested in Natural Health you’ll love Natural Choices. This online course in Natural Health, Nutrition, Psychology and Food Choices, will help kick start your healthy living plan.

There are 18 modules you can go through in your own time. This course is a unique and potentially life-changing learning experience giving you constant access to 100s of tips and health suggestions that you can easily incorporate in your life to make a difference!

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How to Read Food Labels

US Nutritional Fact Label

US Nutritional Fact Label (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TO judge the quality of the food you are buying, take a close look at the Nutrition Facts panel which most foods have.

You can use the guide below to work out if the product contains high levels of fat, sugar or salt (sodium).

Fresh fruit makes a healthy, refreshing snack, but watch out for the processed fruit found in snacks. Processing concentrates fruit sugars until they become a sticky, calorie laden threat to teeth.

School Bars are over 60% sugar and Kellogg’s Fruit Winders are high in both sugar and saturated fat.

Fruit and vegetables are so essential to good health that we should all try to eat more than five portions of fruit and veg every day.

Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned (with no added sugar), freshly squeezed juice and dried fruit and vegetables all count.

Processed foods (such as ready meals) tend to contain low levels of fruit and vegetables and can also contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt.

Vitamin supplements (and many foods which contain added vitamins) do not have the same nutritional benefits as real fruit and vegetables.

Amount per 100g Amount per 100g
This is a lot This is a little
Total fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 1g
Sugar 10g 2g
Sodium 0.5g 0.1g

If you have friends or family who are interested in health and nutrition please do forward this to them using the Social Media buttons below.

Do you have a health challenge that you’d like to discuss with me? I offer online Naturopathic and Nutrition Consultations. Fill out my forms here to book your personal consultation with me.

Thank you!
Fiona

Natural Choices

Natural CoursesIf you’re interested in Natural Health you’ll love Natural Choices. This online course in Natural Health, Nutrition, Psychology and Food Choices, will help kick start your healthy living plan.

There are 18 modules you can go through in your own time. This course is a unique and potentially life-changing learning experience giving you constant access to 100s of tips and health suggestions that you can easily incorporate in your life to make a difference!

GuaranteeSmallI can thoroughly recommend it! You can download it right away

 

Reading food labels – ‘farm fresh’ eggs

A CARTON of eggs can be called ‘farm fresh’ or ‘country-fresh’ and carry images of hens scratching in a farmyard, however these are probably eggs from caged battery hens.

The hens which lay ‘free-range’ eggs must have access to the outdoors, though in practice many are kept in such huge sheds that they rarely daylight.

‘Barn eggs’ are a halfway house between free range and battery systems.

The packaging on Class A ‘Lion Quality’ eggs says they come from ‘caged hens kept in carefully managed conditions’. These hens have to be ‘carefully managed’ because otherwise they would quickly die. In a typical cage, five fully-grown hens are crammed into a space only slightly larger than an A2 poster. Eggs from caged hens may be cheap, but the price in animal welfare is high.

‘Organic’ eggs are guaranteed to come from uncaged hens that are able to roam outside on organic pasture. They taste pretty good too!

Source: The Food Commission

Reading food labels

GOOD food labelling is essential if we’re to know what we’re actually buying. So many foods contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt, along with numerous additives and flavourings, but food labels often fail to make this clear and can sometimes even be deliberately deceptive.

What European Food Labels have to Tell you:

  • Weight or volume
  • Use by
  • Ingredients
  • Genetically modified (GM)
  • Place of origin
  • Nutrition information
  • Artificial sweeteners

Weight or Volume

An e symbol written next to the weight means that this is the average weight of the product, but that the weight of each pack may vary slightly. Use by dates are provided on highly perishable foods and it is illegal for shops to sell the food after this date. Best before dates are used on less perishable foods. Both use by and best before dates assume food has been correctly stored. Sell by or display-until dates are used by shops for stock control, and it is not an offence to sell food past its sell by date. However it wise to not eat foods that are older than their use by date because they could potentially be a health risk. Food eaten after its best before date may not be dangerous, but may no longer be at its best.

Genetically Modified (GM) Products

Products sold in Europe containing GM ingredients, derivatives or additives must be labelled as GM. But meat or dairy products from animals fed GM feed are not required to be labelled as such. Some foods may also be produced with GM enzymes (e.g. bakery products) but do not have to be labelled as GM.  Buying organic food will ensure you avoid GM ingredients, including those used in animal feed.

Place of Origin

There is no legal requirement for a product to display a place of origin except for beef, but labels should declare contact details for a manufacturer or importer. For beef cuts and mince, the country of origin, slaughter and processing must be shown.

Nutritional Information

Companies are not legally obliged to tell you the amount of nutrients such as calories, fat, sugar, fibre and salt (sodium) in their food – unless a claim is made e.g. low fat or high fibre.

Ingredients

Ingredients, including additives, must be listed in descending order of weight. Labels must state how much of a ‘characterising’ ingredient (such as the strawberry in a strawberry yogurt) is contained in the food (e.g. 5%). Some foods don’t have to declare their ingredients, such as sweets sold in small wrappers, food sold unwrapped from a bakery or delicatessen counter, and restaurant and take-away food. Alcoholic drinks do not need to list their ingredients either. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of weight you can quickly check what the main ingredients are in a product. For example, a chicken pie that lists chicken as the fifth ingredient probably doesn’t contain much chicken.

Artificial Sweeteners

If a product contains artificial sweeteners it must state ‘with sweeteners’ next to the product name. Many companies deliberately hide this information on the back of the packet, so always read the small print!

To judge the quality of the food which you buy, take a close look at the Nutrition Information panel which many foods display. You can use the guide below to work out if the product contains high levels of fat, sugar or salt (sodium). The servings marked in red are high – those in blue low. Figures are based on 100g. So 20g of fat per 100g serving is high while 3g of fat per 100g serving is low.

Nutrition Information

Total fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 1g
Sugar 10g 2g
Sodium 0.5g 0.1g

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