Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Can you tell what you are eating?

This morning I got an email outlining the new European Food Labelling legislation about to be submitted for the second reading.  The other day on the Archers (a long-standing Radio Soap Opera about rural life) one of the characters were being dismissive about the other person having been to a lecture on food labelling.  Why am I telling you this?

I bought some rice noodles today.  I bought them even though I wasn't sure what the ingredients were and so therefore did not know if they had gluten in or not.  Those of you who have seen me don plastic gloves to pick up glutened food debris or dishes will think this very strange.

The packaging was transparent and the letters very tiny.  They said Brown Rice Vermicelli Noodles, so I thought they were probably OK.  By hunting for quite some time I found a tiny set of words which looked like they said Ingredients - Thai Brown Rice and Water.  So what was the problem?   In between the word Ingredients and Thai were two more words.  The first looked like Ingredients as well, the second something beginning in Z.  In order to be sure what it said I had to scan it into the computer and blow the image up large.  It turns out it said Zutaten, which also turns out to be the word for Ingredients in German.  The French and German consumers have to read their ingredients in  English.
enhanced and enlarged scan of packaging - Ko-Lee noodles

When I was at school one of my friends wrote an exam question about the properties of gases, solids, liquids and viz.  She didn't know what viz was so invented a whole set of properties for this forth state for matter, whereas it actually means as follows and was meant to show that a list was about to appear.

I had to be sure what this word Zutaten was as I didn't want to eat it if it was dangerous.   Of course, if the writing had been bigger it would have been obvious from the position of the semi-colon that the first three words belonged together and only the last two were actual ingredients.

I carry super magnifying glasses with me when I shop as writing is often small..  One of the worst culprits is actually Doves Farm, who you think would know better since they are in the business of selling foods to people with wellness issues.  One of their most widely distributed biscuits has the ingredients written in yellow writing on yellow paper.

I know it is a nuisance to producers to have to write everything in clear type that is easy to read.  Some have started producing fold out labels to get all the text onto small products - and then you can feel like a vandal if you open them before you buy as they don't stick back down.  However, I am looking forward to a time when I can read what is in things and where all manufacturers and not just a few clearly list the allergens in a separate box.

I'll try these noodles later in soup.  They may be great or they may be revolting.  At the moment they are just a new purchase that has used up about half an hour of my time to be sure what was in them.  If I hadn't fancied fragrant noodle soup I certainly wouldn't have bought them.

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