Grocery: what goes on the label?

Grocery: what goes on the label?

Did you actually know that the information on a label or elsewhere on the packaging of food is precisely defined by the legislator? This is to ensure that the consumer does not buy the proverbial “pig in a poke”. So it’s worth taking a closer look. The label contains information about ingredients, allergens, quality features and properties of the food, among other things. This type of “business card” is intended to facilitate the purchase decision and protect against fraud.

The traffic designation

This is the name of the food. The sales description can be used to determine the type of food and to distinguish it from others (e.g. similar ones).

The list of ingredients

Describes what is in the food. Although no exact quantities are given, the ingredients are listed according to their weight: the main ingredient comes first, followed by the smallest ingredient.

Special features:  If an ingredient in a product is highlighted in the sales description or in an image, the list of ingredients or the sales description must contain the percentage of this ingredient. Example: cream pudding with … % cream.


You can usually recognize them by their class name. This term describes the function of the additive. In addition to the class name, either the name of the additive itself or the uniform EU E number is given, e.g. thickening agent guar; Emulsifiers  E 471, E 475.

Ingredients that are themselves made up of several ingredients

The individual components must be listed again here. Example:  chicken soup  with noodles. The list of ingredients not only says “noodles”, but also the components of noodles (durum wheat semolina,  eggs , table salt) are listed.

Exception: The exact naming can be omitted in individual cases if a composite ingredient makes up less than two percent of the product and does not contain any of the main allergens. Therefore, spice and herb mixtures are usually simply stated as “spices” or “herbs”.

allergen labeling

The allergen label is included in the list of ingredients (highlighted) and lists all additives that most often lead to  allergies  . This information is mandatory on all packaged products. Some manufacturers give information about possible contamination with allergens with the voluntary statement “may contain traces of…” on the packaging.

Ingredients that are responsible for 90 percent of food intolerances must be given by name. This includes:

  1. cereals containing gluten
  2. Owner
  3. Fisch
  4. mollusks
  5. crustaceans
  6. peanuts
  7. Military
  8. dairy products and lactose
  9. Nuts (Tree Nuts)
  10. Mustard
  11. Senfsamen
  12. Saddlery
  13. sulfur dioxide and sulphites
  14. Lupine

Product specific information

Some foods require special labeling under EU law or national guidelines. For dairy products such as  milkcheese  and  yoghurt,  the fat content is given as a percentage. Products made from fruit such as jam, jelly or  juice  are labeled with how many grams of fruit are processed in 100 grams of the product. For fish products, the method of catch, the method of manufacture and the catch region are indicated on the label.

nutritional labeling

Since December 2016, a nutritional value table with seven pieces of information on the nutrients (in grams) and the energy value of the product has been mandatory on all food packaging. The table contains information about the content of the following nutritional values ​​per 100 grams or milliliters:

  1. Energy content:  Describes the calorific value of a product – i.e. how many kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal) it contains. The calorific value is a guide value for the energy that the body can draw from the food.
  2. Fat:  This is how much fat is in the food.  This information is particularly relevant, for example, in the case of lipid metabolism disorders or elevated  cholesterol levels . Fat provides energy and is a carrier of fat-soluble vitamins. It consists of fatty acids, among other things. A distinction is made between unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.
  3. Saturated Fats:  Saturated fats are considered to be the unhealthiest. They are mostly found in animal foods and do not have to be ingested in large quantities through food because they can be formed by the body itself. Saturated fats taken in excess increase cholesterol levels and can put a strain on the cardiovascular system.
  4. Carbohydrates This means all carbohydrates – including sugar. The amount of sugar is also listed separately. Sugar and starch are the fastest available sources of energy.
  5. Sugar:  This nutritional information includes, for example, granulated sugar, fructose and lactose. By indicating the sugar content in a food, sugar bombs can be easily identified. This information is particularly important for diabetics.
  6. Protein :  Describes the amount of protein that the food contains. Protein is particularly important for growth, muscle and cell building.
  7. Salt Salt (sodium chloride) is the main source of  sodium , an essential  mineral  for the body. Sodium regulates the fluid and mineral balance and thus creates the basis for a functioning  metabolism . Since the body cannot produce it itself, sodium must be obtained from food. But too much salt is bad for your heart. Therefore, the information on the salt concentration in a product is particularly important for people who have to eat a low-salt diet due to cardiovascular problems.

Sometimes information about  fiber, minerals  or  vitamins  can also be found on the food packaging. This information is voluntary, so food manufacturers are not legally obliged to provide it.

The expiration date

 Indicates the minimum time up to which the food in the unopened pack retains its special properties such as smell,  taste , color and  nutrients . After the date has passed, the food is not automatically spoiled or reduced in value. However, before using it, you should check its appearance, smell and possibly taste.

Special features:  Perishable foods such as packaged minced meat have a use-by date instead of a best-before date. You should use the product by this day at the latest. If the shelf life is only guaranteed under certain storage conditions, these are also mentioned. Example: “Best before at 4-8 degrees Celsius …” or “Store in a cool, dry place.”

The filling quantity

The filling quantity provides information about the weight, the volume or the number of pieces of the packaged food.

Special features:  In the case of concentrated products such as soups and sauces, you will also find information on how many liters or milliliters the prepared product makes. In the case of food in an infusion liquid, for example canned fruit or gherkins, the drained weight is also indicated. Example: capacity 825 grams, drained weight 490 grams.

The manufacturer information

States the name or company and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller established in the EU. In the event of a complaint, you and the seller can determine where the food comes from.

Lot number or batch number

Assigns the food to a batch of goods. A lot includes foodstuffs that have been produced, manufactured and packaged under practically the same conditions. If a complaint is made about the goods, the manufacturer can use the number to investigate internal errors.

identification mark

The identity mark is used to identify the company where the food was last packaged or manufactured. This information is only necessary for foods such as meat and dairy products, i.e. all foods with animal content. Specifically, the identification mark then provides information about the EU member state (abbreviation) and the federal state in which the company is located. In addition, the marking contains a special number, this is the approval number of the production facility.

The base price

It is the price per kilogram or per liter of the food. This makes it easier for you to compare the prices of products packaged in different quantities, such as cheese or  meat . The basic price must be placed at the final price. However, many foods are exempt from this declaration. Example: 2.58 euros / 4.98 euros/kg .

Product seals and logos

The labeling of food products with seals and logos is based on voluntary information provided by the manufacturer. The logos differ greatly in terms of transparency, significance and quality. Some meaningful seals and logos are shown below:

  • EU organic logo and state organic seal:  both stand for compliance with EU regulations for organic farming.
  • Non-GMO seal:  The seal only identifies foods that do not contain any genetically modified components. In the case of plant-based foods, there must be no traces of genetically modified components. In the case of feedstuffs for animal products, these may contain up to 0.9 percent of genetically modified components, even with a seal. In addition, this only refers to a certain period of feeding before meat, dairy products or eggs are obtained.
  • EU seal of approval:  The three EU seals of approval are called “Protected Designation of Origin”, “Protected Geographical Indication” and “Traditional Quality Guaranteed”. They are awarded to products that are produced in a specific region, manufactured in a specific area, or produced in a traditional way where the region and manufacture give the product a particular quality and texture.
  • Animal protection label:  This seal shows that the conditions for fattening animals are better than those required by law.
  • Fair Trade:  The logo stands for good working and living conditions for workers and employees involved in the production of the product.
  • Regional Window:  This logo identifies the origin and production site of agricultural ingredients.
  • MSC seal for sustainable fisheries:  MSC stands for Marine Stewardship Council. This classifies the sustainability of fisheries.

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