Sunday, 3 June 2012

Butterkist food labeling


OK, so I am starting to take more of an interest in the labeling on food, and as I was waiting for some popcorn to pop, I read the labels. Interesting.

First off, I could not find how much was actually in the product. The labelling is per 100g, but nothing says how many grammes of product there is. I eventually found it where the "best before date" should have been. Three sachets of 90g each. That is a start.

But then I was puzzled by how different the two are. The ingredients, as it says, are basically maize, and vegetable oil with some salt (and in one case flavouring and colour).

Note that, as I understand it, ingredients are in order. So even if the butter popcorn is 0.67% salt, that means the flavouring and colouring are each less than 0.67%, as you would expect. This leaves the main differences in the ratio of maize and vegetable oil alone.

The fact the salted version has more salt (2.8 times as much) is no big surprise. It is "Salted" popcorn. Even so, the salt is a tiny fraction of the contents (0.67% or 1.9%).

So how much of each major ingredient (protein, carbohydrate, fat, fibre) must exist in the two key ingredients of maize and vegetable oil?

The butter flavour has 39% more protein in it and 41% more carbohydrate, yet under half the sugar and just over half the fat.

And where is the fibre from. Correct me if I am wrong but you get no fibre from vegetable oil, so must be from the maize. The butter flavour has 67% less fibre in it. That would suggest 67% less maize. But to be honest, I would notice if there was 67% less maize in my popcorn. Looking at it, it looks like the same amount of maize in each. I am not keen to count the kernels, but on volume alone, it is not 67% different. It seems maize should be the most significant ingredient in either version. Surely vegetable oil is the main source of fat in this, suggesting the salted version has twice as much.

So somehow the salted version has twice as much vegetable oil and three times as much maize, or something.

I cannot work it out. Am I missing something obvious here?

Does anyone ever check this stuff?

2 comments:

  1. A sample goes off to an independent lab for analysis. AFAIK each product needs its own sample so you can't say that the two products will essentially be the same nutritionally since the only difference is really the presence or absence of a small amount of salt or butter flavour.

    The analysis, again AFAIK, only needs one sample though and so two samples of two similar products can both be at once "representative" and fairly different. Perhaps one picked up a lot of outer husk and the other little. Perhaps one was rather more than usually greasy and one below average in the residual vegitable oil.

    At the end of the day the food producers put nutritional information on packages because they have to, not because they want to be nice people. As long as the process ticks the legislative boxes they're happy. The law forgot to mention that it has to be useful, so you shouldn't be surprised if it isn't.

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  2. This is the bane of the life of insulin-dependent diabetics; you have to work out how many carbs you eat to know how much insulin to inject. Giving the number of carbs as per 100g (but no total weight) or 'per typical serving' (which is what?) are common problems. In an ideal world you would also know how much is slow-absorption (more fibrous, eg porridge) and other such details but often it's hard even to work out the most basic information (which as you point out may in the end turn out to be inaccurate)

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