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Consumers unsure about food labeling and information

According to New Scientist the legislative practices of governments have led to consumers being confused over food labels and ever changing guidance about what constitutes healthy food is not helping the situation. For example, are all saturated fats bad for you or are some, in fact, OK? The answer here is a confusing “it depends.”

The opinion piece argues it is better to present consumers with the scientific facts about food, however complex they may be, than to over-simply things into “five portions of fruit or vegetables per day.” The “five-a-day” promoted by the U.K. government and in other countries is not clear over portion sizes, the inclusion or exclusion of fruit like bananas and vegetables like potatoes.

One issue with fruit and vegetables is the practice of “de-bittering.” Here, to cater for the modern tendency for people to have a “sweet tooth,” some food producers are making fruit and vegetables taste less bitter. This process, a separate New Scientist report argues, is to make these healthy options less healthy. An example cited is the near disappearance of the less sugar-loaded white grapefruit from the aisles of supermarkets and the rise of the sweeter and more sugar-laden pink varieties.

Consumers are not only concerned about the advice they are given. The continual news about food poisoning outbreaks has left them suspicious, along with fears about chemical additives. According to a survey conducted by the U.K. Food Standard Agency, the main food concerns from consumers are:

Food hygiene when eating out (37 percent of those polled),
The use of additives in food products (raised by 29 percent).

To addition to this, concerns were raised about:

The amount of sugar in food, which 51 percent of people are concerned about,
Food waste, popular among younger people as a serious issue,
Salt in food, which 49 percent of those polled are worried about.

In other food news, the eating of insects in Europe seems to be growing in popularity, moving from a fad thing to an alternative means of taking in protein. The problem is that many insects are imported. Some of these are not prepared to good hygiene standards and others are not suitable for human consumption.

The types of insects, sold as tasty snacks and rising in popularity in Europe as food sources, are:

Chinese yellow scorpion
Domestic cricket
Giant leaf cutter ants
Giant leaf cutter ants
Black Asian Tarantula
Mopani worms

European food regulators are calling for a review of the import mechanisms, hygiene standards and safety of the insects sold as food stuffs.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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