Food labelling – what does it mean for moms? - Part 2

Posted by Kath Megaw on 26/10/2015

New and exciting developments in food labelling

On the 20th of March 2013, a new legislation was passed, relating to the reduction of sodium in certain foodstuffs, in an attempt to reduce the high prevalence of people in South Africa with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.  This legislation was implemented by the Department of Health in order to reduce the maximum total sodium per 100g of various foodstuff categories including bread, ready-to-eat savoury snacks, all breakfast cereals, flavoured potato crisps, all fat and butter spreads, processed meats and others. This process will be carried out over a period of 5 years.

What E numbers actually mean

E numbers are defined as a code number that is preceded by the letter E, which donates the food additives added to foods to either preserve, flavour or enhance their taste and appearance and are numbered in accordance with EU directives.  Most additives are only permitted to be used in certain foods and are subject to specific quantitative limits, so it is important to note the list of E-numbers is always used by food product developers in conjunction with the appropriate European Union legislation. The list of E-numbers covers a variety of additive groups, including colours; flavours; preservatives; antioxidants; sweeteners; emulsifiers; stabilisers; thickeners; and gelling agents.

Additives and allergens

The regulation also stipulates that common allergens (gluten, milk, eggs, soya, peanuts and tree nuts, shellfish or crustaceans, or significant cereals (wheat, rye, barley, oats, and titricale which is a cross between wheat and rye) must be indicated on food labels. Uncommon allergens (i.e. an allergen which is not classified as a common allergen as described above), must be disclosed by manufacturers upon request by a consumer, inspector or the Department of Health. 

Food manufacturers must also declare all additives such as Tartrazine (E 102 or Yellow No. 5), MSG, sulphur dioxide and related compounds (sodium sulphite, sodium bisulphite, hydrogen sulphites and metabisulphites) on labels.

These requirements make life much easier for allergy sufferers, as it makes it easier to avoid food beverages which contain the specific allergen or allergens they react to.

Top 10 things for a mom to look out

  1. Monosodium glutamate (MSG/E621), which is a flavour enhancer
  2. Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ/E319), used as an antioxidant to reduce the onset of rancidity
  3. Azo dyes, such as Tartrazine (E102), Blue (E133), Red (E124)
  4. Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite, used as a preservative, colouring and flavouring agent in bacon, processed meats and hot dogs and carcinogenic in the human digective system
  5. Artificial Sweeteners, such as aspartame (E951), saccharin (E954) and sorbitol (E420).
  6. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  7. Trans Fat, used to extend the shelf life of food products
  8. Sodium Sulfite (E221) and Sulphur dioxide (E220), used in dried fruit and processed foods
  9. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA/E320) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT/E321): Waxy preservatives used to keep food from becoming rancid and linked to cancer and tumours
  10. Potassium bromate an additive used to increase volume in breads (bromated flour)

It is very reassuring to know, that the “Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs” is available to be used by the consumer and is an effective tool in strictly regulating food product labelling and nutrient claims of products and additives.

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