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Opinions of Friday, 7 November 2014

Columnist: Royal, Fosu Ameyaw

Food label: the ideal recipe for a healthy life

Written by Fosu Ameyaw Royal 0246376077 /0203032894 (Nutritionist) The rates of dietary related chronic diseases such as cancer, childhood illness, hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease and auto-immune diseases are on the rise. These high rise ill conditions can be attributed to food preservatives and poor food supply system. Consumers can avoid these and other food preservatives by checking food labels for ingredients you've never heard of. While one small serving may not cause any damage, these chemicals can remain in your body for years, meaning toxic levels could build up over time. The other so-called natural additives are just plain gross and again do not have any purpose other than pleasing consumer palates. Reducing intakes of fat, cholesterol, sodium, and increasing fiber intake have been reported to help decrease a person's risk of aforementioned health problems. Food manufacturers have found there’s money to be made by exploiting the fact that few of us spend much time studying a product — research says the average time spent at the supermarket shelf before making a choice is seven seconds. So consumers rely on trust and logos for purchase. As a nutritionist, am much concern about the effect of diet on health resulted in the legislation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) and its implementation. As a result, most food products now carry labels that provide information about saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, sodium, and other nutrients in a format designed to help consumers choose a more healthful and nutritious diet. With the improvement of living standards, consumers have become increasingly concerned about their health and general well-being since natural food is increasingly being replaced with conventional foods. To make a product unique and distinctive, manufacturers spend more money and time on packaging more than advertisement because packaging is mostly the utmost distinguished marketing element. Marketers as well as manufacturers spend considerable time and substantial amount of money on packaging products in a manner that will attract consumer attention and enhance the product consumption. Food label has now become a popular policy tool. At present, there are many reasons why foods are processed and packaged, some of which include, adding value to a food, improving visual appeal and convenience. The act has now developed far beyond its initial purpose of product protection In Ghana, The Food and Drug Authority regulates food product manufacturing, importation, exportation, advertisement and distribution. In pursuance of section 47(b) (ii) of the Food and Drugs Law, 1992 (P.N.D.C.L 305B) guidelines are made to regulate the use of health claims in food labeling and advertisement in Ghana. Research on food label and consumers have gained much momentum in recent times. Since consumers found nutritional label confusing and an inability to understand food label information because of difficult terminology and small font sizes. Food labels are of tremendous importance to the consumer (provide them a means of evaluating the food before purchase), the firm producing and selling the product (a means of communicating to the potential consumer the attributes and qualities of the product), and regulatory bodies (a means of ensuring that food produced and sold meet required standards and a means of protecting the interest of the general public) Despite these benefits of food labels, there have been many reported instances where non-certified, expired, illegal or fake food products are sold to the general public. Cases in point are sale of uncertified sachet-packed drinking water, ‘’pure water”, the sale of expired canned products, frozen meat and the sale of uncertified imported food products on the Ghanaian market. From the above it can be confidently argued that these instances and their frequency of occurrence can considerably be alleviated if the needed attention is paid to the food label information by consumers, if the regulatory bodies had enforced their constitutionally mandated responsibilities, and had all the manufacturing companies complied with the act of Food and Drug Authority (FDA) as stated above. An important means of assessing food product is through the labels. Against the backdrop of an important issue worth addressing is whether consumers refer to food labels for product information before and during purchase Knowing whether or not consumers understand food label information, the type of information consumers look out for and whether consumers’ choice of food is affected by food label information will help manufacturers make informed decisions in this regard. Improvement on the part of these manufacturing firms in turn will help consumers make well-informed choice, reduce the risk of food poisoning, buying fake products etc.

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