Nutrition Information Panel: Best Before 2011
Written by Tony Chen
For health-conscious individuals, we rely heavily on the nutrition information panel (NIP) on food packaging to inform us on the nutritional content, and density, of our food.
This information is what largely drives our decision process on what to buy, not just for ourselves, but for our families. We put a great amount of trust into this system to advise our consumption behaviour, but perhaps we have given food manufacturers more trust than we should.
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is an independent statutory agency established by both Australian and New Zealand governments. The FSANZ has created a database with the nutritional information of 1534 food items available in Australia, with up to 254 nutrients per item.
Food manufacturers have to submit a list of ingredients of their products, and how they have been processed, to the FSANZ. The FSANZ then creates the product’s NIP, informed by their extensive database. Now, I am not saying we cannot trust the testing and analysis procedures of the FSANZ, but their data has not been updated since 2011.
Of course, constantly updating the database would be far too expensive and labour-intensive, but without regular updates the database has the potential to create deeply misleading NIPs. The FSANZ assumes that the nutritional content of raw ingredients is stable, never changing. That is far from the truth. Like the vintage of a wine, the quality and nutritional value of raw ingredients can vary drastically based on the year and locality of harvest.
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At Eat for You, transparency, honesty, and accuracy are of the utmost importance. Each batch of Hero Bars from Eat for You is sent to independent food laboratories for nutritional analysis. That means the NIPs of Hero Bars are calculated independently of the FSANZ database, making every NIP accurate to the exact ingredients used in each batch. This ensures that the nutritional information of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients are as accurate as possible, and not determined by loose estimates from outdated information.
Batch testing, therefore, allows us to learn where the best sources of our ingredients are located. This knowledge informs a continuous learning and development process of food manufacturing that makes room for constant refinement without compromising honesty.
Understanding the process of NIP calculation is just the first step towards breaking the knowledge barrier between everyday consumers and major food manufacturers. If we want accurate and honest nutrition labelling on our foods, we have to demand it. Talk to your regular food suppliers, ask if they have tested the nutrient content of their food, and have a discussion about why batch testing matters to you.