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False promises, proportions Five tips to better decipher food labels

A special edition of “60 Million consumers”, which appears this Thursday, provides some tips for “eating without poisoning yourself”

The magazine published by the National Consumer Institute looks at our plates. Or rather on the labels of foods sold in supermarkets. Indeed, a special issue of  60 million consumers, which appears this Thursday, offers “Eat without poisoning”. And wishes to help the consumer better decipher the labels of products hiding salt, sugar, fat, dyes.

60 A million consumers sift through a hundred basic food products, from balsamic vinegar to sausages, and offer an analysis of marketing strategies to make us swallow anything. With the help of this magazine and the advice of Florence Foucault , dietitian and nutritionist, 20 Minutes offers five tips for finding your way around.

Read the ingredients

If there is something visible from afar, it is the size of the label. “The longer the list, the worse the product,” says Florence Foucault. This implies that there are a lot of additives, flavour enhancers, colourings so that it is very processed. Second important information: the composition is written in a decreasing manner, the magazine underlines. A good reflex to take is therefore to “look at what is the first ingredient on the list because it is the one that has the majority,” she continues. We must also see if it corresponds to the product we want to buy. If you take a mince pie and the meat comes in the fifth position, it is quite problematic! »If you only have a short time, then you might as well just dust off the start of the list.

Hunt the hidden products

Many ingredients pass through the window so as not to appear on the label. The magazine details, product by product (salt, sugar, fat, dyes, etc.) those that enrich (or deplete) our food. And the general public does not always have the necessary dictionary. Thus, the journal translates the claims “without added salt”, “low in salt”, “25% less salt” … “Compotes” reduced in sugar “sometimes have more sugar than those” without added sugar “, illustrates Florence Foucault. Because “light” means that the sugar content of the initial product has been reduced by 25% … which we do not know “. She, therefore, pleads to compare the labels for 100 g of compote rather than stopping at the slogan. It’s not easy to find your way around the mountain of logos… “The more information we have on food, the fewer people eat well, she laments. The concern remains basic nutritional education, knowing the food, going back to home-made. With confinement, many went back to the kitchen, discovered that it does not take that long … It will be necessary to see if good habits remain. “

Beware of promises 

“Ethics”, “organic”, “dietetics”, “sugar free” … Nutritionists interviewed by 60 Millionsinvite us to be wary of teasing slogans. We will discover in this review that organic can use three dyes and certain controversial preservatives. If we attack sugar which, as we know, is not the best friend of our summer body or our liver, distrust must be there. The special issue indicates that “certain foods presented as” natural “or” healthy “are loaded with added sugars, which aggravates the confusion, accuse the creators of the Sugar Science site. The mention “without sugars” does not exclude sucrose and simple sugars, and even less synthetic sweeteners. And “no added sugars” products can contain naturally sweetened ingredients like grape must or concentrated fruit juice extracts. “

Pay attention to the proportions!

It’s not easy to understand how fat a jar of Nutella is. It is, therefore, better to refer to the measurements for a portion, since it is not expected that you will finish a chocolate bar or a box of cereals in a meal. Another trap: “on the packaging, manufacturers are obliged to give information on the sugar or fat content,” says Florence Foucault. They often display a nutritional composition per 100 g, but it does not correspond to a portion, which adds blur in the mind of the consumer. It is not simple because it is necessary to make a rule of 3 to understand what is the amount ingested. ” So, the magazine cites the example of two types of cereals which display the calorie content for 30 g, knowing that the consumption of an adult is rather around 45 g per morning … “Overall, it is very meaningful to convert this which is displayed on the label in usual measurement, resumes the nutritionist. Basically, we can remember that 5 g of sugar equivalent to a piece of sugar and that 10 g of lipids is a tablespoon of oil. ” it’s a tablespoon of oil. ” it’s a tablespoon of oil. “

Use the different tools well

Today, the consumer benefits from several boosts. The Nutriscore first. This logo, which displays a letter from A to E and a colour, from green to red, helps to fill your cart more healthily. The score takes into account the content of nutrients and foods to promote (fibres, proteins, fruits and vegetables), but also in ingredients to limit (saturated fatty acids, sugars, salt). “But not additives regrets Florence Foucault. The problem is that only 4 out of 10 French people know and use Nutriscore. Which is only displayed on 30% of products, as revealed by a May 2020 Crédoc survey. In any case, it is impossible to fill your shopping cart with only green products. Nutritionist Laurence Mazziotta, interviewed by60 million consumers, assures us: “The butter will be classified E (red) on the Nutri-Score scale because of its high-fat content and the salad will include the mention A (green). Should we, however, do without butter entirely and consume only salad? For the dietician, focusing on the nutritional value of food can lead to eating disorders. “We must keep in mind the frequency of consumption, cassoulet C or D, in general, we do not eat it every day,” adds Florence Foucault. But this had a positive impact: manufacturers were forced to review their revenues, in particular by lowering the salt. “

Second useful tool:  the nutrition applications that have flourished in recent years. “Provided you know what the algorithm takes into account and what it does not retain”, nuances the dietician. Because of some highlight the ethical side, others the impact on health. “Today, there are additives everywhere, says Florence Foucault. Where you have to be more vigilant is on simple products. Typically, a carrot puree, applesauce, a frozen ratatouille, if it is stuffed with additives, it is avoided. »Scanning, comparing, making a small equation can take time, but in general, we often buy the same food, so we take good reflexes once and for all.

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