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Reading Food Labels

On most food packaging in New Zealand you will find a list of ingredients, a nutrition information panel and possibly some nutrition claims. These will help you make healthy choices about what you buy; they can be used to compare one product against another.  Here’s a breakdown of what each item on the label means.

Golden Munchies Info


Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, starting with the largest amount first. If water makes up more than five per cent of the final product, it must also be listed as an ingredient. The amount of the key ingredient, eg. apricots in an apricot muesli bar, must be listed as a percentage of the total product. In some products, such as plain bread, there are no key ingredients.

Food Additives

There are more than 3000 different chemicals that are purposefully added to our food supply. Some are added for flavour, others to preserve or stabilise. Rule of thumb: avoid ingredients that sound like chemicals. Commonly used food additives include emulsifiers, flavour enhancers, preservatives, food acids, colouring and raising agents. Food additives are listed in the ingredients list by their functional name and also by a number or chemical name, e.g. flavour enhancer (621 or monosodium glutamate).

Your Homework Exercise

Find one COMPLIANT, and one NON-COMPLIANT food item in your pantry or supermarket and bring it (or the packet) to your next weigh-in. Its good to share ideas and make sure you are reading labels correctly!