TOPICS: Food packaging and labels

While buying any food product we seldom look at its label content. Most of the time we will not check the label content to gain general information.

In my experience lots of time when I have checked the label of food products like edible oil, biscuits, noodles, etc particularly in rural areas I found their date expired, and still some shopkeepers were selling them with no idea that these food products could create negative impacts on consumer health.

Manufacturing houses and distributors are exploiting these area to sell their date expired products far from inspection committees.

Talking about food product life cycle there are two basic principles to define it, one called “date expired” and the other “best before”. Both these have different meanings.

The general understanding is the “date expired” date is the last date on which the food is safe to consume, provided that it was stored correctly, while “best before” dates are not about food safety, but product quality.

As per the Nepal food regulations 1970, any labeling of food product must have batch number, manufacturing date, weight, clear indication of class–II preservatives, etc. The label provides details about the food and its processing which will help customers know about the food products and to screen any risk in the food which could affect consumers’ health.

Lots of research and improvisation have taken place in this particular subject around the globe. The world is moving towards smart food labeling where information about the food like genetically modified, biologically safe, uses of carcinogenic preservatives and many more must be mandatorily incorporated.

Similarly, 64 countries in the world require genetically modified (GMO) food label in the packaging if there is GMO content in the food. Likewise smart labeling is also for differently abled customers who can’t see but they can feel it in the product through Braille emboss in the packaging.

Many companies have found ways of changing their packaging from plastics to biodegradable ones while a few have started packing their food products in the edible layer manufactured by starch or fruits cover.

In Nepal we still use polythene bags, plastics and many other low standard materials that have been impacting our environment and health.

Packing technique and label information are mandatory and the manufacturing houses should take appropriate action to implement and continue improvement in this area.

Khatiwada is a food technologist