Nutrition Labelling – Wet or Dry – Does it matter?
If you compare milk with dried milk, they have the same composition, except that one contains a great deal more water.
But they look quite different when some nutrition reports are applied to them. That’s because they are based on ‘per 100g’ values.
So the front of pack ‘traffic light’ report is always based on ‘per 100g’ (or ‘per 100ml’), unless the serving size is more than 100g (or 100ml), in which case there are extra rules for higher values of nutrients.
Compare these two front of pack labels for whole milk and dried whole milk:
The 13g portion of milk powder looks much less healthy than the 100g of liquid milk, even though they contain roughly the same quantities of nutrients.
Liquids do have tighter limits for these colours than solid foods, but, in this example, that doesn’t make much difference. So drier products are liable to be penalised in these panels.
In the European Union, the equivalent of the UK’s front of pack traffic light panel is the Nutri-Score logo, whose use is encouraged in a number of countries and it is used by a number of large manufacturers.
The Nutri-Score rules actually gives both liquid milk and milk powder a value of ‘E’ (the lowest). Weight for weight, Nutri-Score judges drinks much more harshly than solid foods.
It might seem a little fairer to base nutrition tables and labels on ‘per serving’ values, not ‘per 100g’. For a long time, that has been the requirement on the American and Canadian Nutrition Facts panels.
Then, a serving of milk can correspond to a serving of milk powder. The snag is that there’s a great deal of controversy regarding misleading serving sizes. This morning, my breakfast cereal box had nutrition information values shown for both ‘per 100g’ and ‘per serving’ and it used a serving size of 30g.
But when I weighed my bowlful, it tipped the scales at 60g. Maybe I’m just greedy, but 30g does seem very low.
Similar debates occur when the number of items is used as the serving size. For example, ‘three sweets’ (I’d probably eat the whole packet!).
It just goes to show that various labels and rules which are meant to relieve the obesity crisis are very blunt instruments.