All About Labels

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Most of us cheat a little with jars and packets every now and then, but how do we know how to choose the healthiest option on the supermarket shelves? This week, dietician Aveen Bannon talks us through food labelling, and how to identify the healthiest option, every time.

When we haven’t made the food ourselves, it’s difficult to know what you are eating! Food labels can help make healthier choices and make sure our food is safe to eat! Here’s my top tips to making the right choices at the supermarket each week.



Use by

Don’t eat a food or drink after its “use by” date even if it looks and smells ok, as Microorganisms will have started to grow in the food and you can risk food poisoning. Once you open a food with a “use by” date, follow the instructions for storing it, such as keeping it in the fridge or eating it within a few days of opening.

Best before

“Best before” is different to “use by” as it is not for food safety purposes but with quality (flavour, texture etc…). Do not throw out your food prematurely!! If it still tastes nice, aim to eat it before the “use by” date.

Display until and sell by

Both “display until” or “sell by” can appear next or near to the “best before” or “use by” date. They are not instructions for the consumer; they are for the staff in the shop!

Nutrition Claims

Fortunately there are rules that food manufacturers must follow which prevents false or misleading claims being made to the consumer. So what is provided? Well….


  • The ingredients in the food, including additives, are listed with the main ingredients at the start of the list and decreasing as they decrease in the amount per weight added.
  • If flavourings are used, the label must say so and the ingredients list must also highlight any of the common allergens that can be found in the product such as eggs, nuts and soya.
  • What you’ll also find if information regarding the vitamins or minerals that may have been added to the product.
  • However, manufacturers only have to give nutritional information voluntarily. It will become law to do so from December 2016!
  • When nutrition information is given on a label, as a minimum it must, under the new rules, show the amount of each of the following per 100g or 100ml of the food. Let me explain this slightly more complicated info….


food label to use

A manufacturer can also give a ‘per serving’ or ‘per portion’ breakdown. However, this is the manufacturer’s idea of what constitutes a portion or serving and may differ from your own!!



Since 2007, the European Commission need to approve any health claims on packaging. Any nutritional and health benefits of a food must be based on science.

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aveenAveen Bannon, Consultant Dietitian

BSc. (Hons) (Human Nutrition and Dietetics), H Dip DBSIT, M.I.N.D.I

Born in Dublin, Aveen has practiced widely in hospitals both in Ireland and the UK prior to setting up the dublin nutrition centre in 2003. She graduated from Trinity College with a BSc. (Hons) (Human Nutrition and Dietetics) and is a current member of the I.N.D.I (Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute).

Since qualifying Aveen has gained a wide range of experience in various different medical fields. Having trained in St. James’s hospital, her professional experience began in the Dietetic Department of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Trust, UK. On returning to Ireland, Aveen rejoined her training ground hospital, St. James, as a senior Clinical Nutritionist.

Since setting up the dublin nutrition centre Aveen has provided a consultancy dietetic service to many health institutions including the Beacon Renal Unit, the Beacon Cancer support centre, RehabCare, ARC Cancer Support Centre, Lucena Clinic and the Marie Keating foundation. Aveen regularly gives talks and presentations to companies at health & wellbeing seminars and provides regular nutrition consultancy for food companies.

Aveen runs weekly clinics in the dublin nutrition centre and has a keen interest in health promotion and weight management.

Aveen provides regular nutrition consultancy for media communications such as print, TV and radio and made regular appearances on RTE’s the Afternoon Show during its four year run. Aveen wrote a weekly food labeling column for the Sunday World Magazine for five years and a weekly column in the Irish Independent health supplement for 3 years.


Main Photo Credit via photopin


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