Staff Scientist, Institute of Food Technologists
Sarah Davis, MS, RD, is a Staff Scientist ith the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Washington, D.C. She holds a B.S. degree in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise with concentrations in Consumer Foods and Dietetics, and a Masters degree in Foods from Virginia Tech. She completed a year-long dietetic internship with the Medical College of Virginia in 2002, and is a registered dietitian. She has co-authored several peer-reviewed publications, and is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Dietetic Association.
Food Labels - Ingredients List
This video will show how to read food labels, specifically reading the list of ingredients.
Sarah Davis: Hi, I am Sarah Davis with the Institute of Food Technologists and today we are going to talk about how to read food labels. So how to read an Ingredient List. Well ingredients that are all contained in this product are listed in descending order of predominance by weight. This means that the first ingredient listed is used the most in this product by weight and the last ingredient listed is used the least in this product by weight. One exception to that is that any ingredient that are used in less than two percent may all be listed in whatever order at the end of the Ingredient List because they are all less than 2%. So for this cereal, we can see that Rice is used the most by weight in this product and Vitamin D is listed last. So it's either a less than 2% used in this product or used the least by weight in the product. The ingredient list is helpful for all consumers just to know what ingredients are in your food product. But it's also especially important for consumers with special dietary needs, such as those with food allergies. If I had a food allergy, I would read the ingredient list to make sure that the allergen I am worried about isn't in this product and then I would know it's safer me to eat, if it's not in the Ingredient List. A lot of food companies also will list a warning, allergen warning right under the Ingredient List. Like this says CONTAINS WHEAT INGREDIENTS. So if I am allergic to wheat then I know by looking at the Ingredient List and the warning right under it that I want to avoid this product. So Ingredient List are very helpful for consumers with special dietary needs. Now some packages are very small, such as candies, which I have some right here and you can see that they don't have any label information. They might tell me who makes the product and what it is, but it often doesn't have nutrition information because it's so small. But in that case, you can look at the larger packet and that should tell you an ingredient list and nutritional information. Now when ingredients are listed on the Ingredient List they need to be in simple terms that both adults and children can easily understand. For example, Sugar will be listed on the ingredient list instead of Sucrose. Now products like spices and artificial flavors are listed either by their common name, which may be Cinnamon or they are listed as Spice, Flavor, Natural Flavor or Artificial Flavor. Chemical preservatives can be listed by their common name, but then they also need to include a function. So you might see Sodium Benzoate a preservative to inhibit mould and so on, beside a chemical preservative. But not all ingredients tell you their function. So sometimes they can be confusing to look at the Ingredient List and you are not sure why an ingredient is there and so just to give you a broad, helpful understanding a lot of time's additives are put in foods either to help improve and maintain the nutritional value in which case vitamins and minerals like Calcium and Folic acid are added. They might be used to help maintain or improve the safety and freshness of a product and that's why a lot of chemical preservatives might be used, like BHA, Sodium Benzoate and Ascorbic acid or you might have additives that are used to improve or maintain the taste, texture or appearance, This is why sweeteners, fat replacers, thickeners and stabilizers, emulsifiers and other additives of that category are used. So that's a little bit about the Ingredient List and next we will talk more about the Nutritional Facts Panel when reading food labels.