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Identification of labelling errors and concerns on specific categories of South African processed food products that may impact consumer health
Van Dyk, Maritza
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Labels are the source of information about the contents of food products and must be correct so that consumers are not misled and can make informed product choices. However, food label information is often incorrect, misleading or just insufficient. The aim of this study was to determine the labelling errors and concerns that occurred in specific categories of the South African processed food market. Randomly selected food product labels (N=246) were evaluated that represented the selected categories of processed foods (N=7), namely: breakfast cereal (9%), savoury snacks (13%), sweet snacks (29%), non-refrigerated meals (7%), refrigerated meals (9%), soups and sauces (25%) and convenience desserts and baked goods (8%). A pre-tested labelling checklist was used to evaluate each food label according to the food labelling areas that could impact consumer health considering the current South African labelling regulations published in 1993, the draft of these regulations published in 2002, and the further new proposed draft regulations. Labelling errors found induded the use of prohibited statements and not identifying compound ingredients (19% and 12% of the products respectively). A labelling concern was also the lack of identification of the fatsloils used (61% of the products). Further concerns identified included the lack of additive-free and allergen-free claims. For example, significant differences (p<O.05) were found between the number of products claiming to be aclditive-free and those that could have made such ctaims but did not. A real concern was the listing of ingredients of unknown origin with allergenicity potential (80% of the products). The breakfast cereal category contained the most eneigy and nutrient claims and nutritional education information, with most errors identified in the categories refrigerated meals and soups and sauces, and most concerns in the category savoury snacks. There is scope for food labelling improvement, specifically in the areas of ingredient and allergen identification, additive-free claims and heaJth-related information provision.