Decoding Food Product and Ingredient Labels When Shopping

Decoding Food Product and Ingredient Labels When Shopping

Understanding food product and ingredient labels is essential for making informed and healthy choices, especially in a diverse food market like Singapore. The city-state offers a vast array of local and international food products, and knowing how to read labels can help you navigate this variety effectively. This guide will help you decode food labels, understand common terms, and make better shopping decisions.

Why Label Reading is Important

Food labels provide vital information about the nutritional content, ingredients, and origins of the products we consume. They help us:

  • Make healthier choices.
  • Avoid allergens and intolerances.
  • Understand serving sizes and nutritional values.
  • Recognize additives and preservatives.
  • Support sustainable and ethical products.

Key Components of Food Labels 

In Singapore, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) oversees food labeling regulations. Here are the key components you’ll find on food labels:

  • Ingredient List
  • Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)
  • Expiry or Best-Before Dates
  • Allergen Information
  • Country of Origin
  • Claims and Certifications

Ingredient List

The ingredient list provides a detailed breakdown of what is in the product. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, meaning the first ingredient is the most abundant.

Tips for Reading Ingredient Lists:

  • Watch for Sugars: Sugars can be listed under various names like sucrose, glucose, fructose, and corn syrup. Be mindful of their presence.
  • Identify Additives: Additives and preservatives often have names or codes (e.g., E621 for MSG). Familiarize yourself with common ones to avoid.

Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)

The NIP provides information on the nutritional content of the product, usually per 100 grams and per serving. Key nutrients listed include energy (calories), protein, fat, carbohydrates, sugars, and sodium.

Key Points in the NIP:

  • Energy (kcal): Indicates the amount of energy provided by the food. Consider your daily caloric needs when evaluating this.
  • Protein: Essential for growth and repair. Check the protein content, especially in products marketed as protein-rich.
  • Fats: Look at total fats, saturated fats, and trans fats. Aim for low saturated and trans fats.
  • Carbohydrates and Sugars: Distinguish between total carbohydrates and sugars. High sugar content can indicate a less healthy product.
  • Sodium: High sodium intake is linked to hypertension. Opt for lower-sodium products, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Expiry or Best-Before Dates

Understanding these dates ensures food safety and quality:

  • Expiry Date: Indicates the last date the product is safe to consume.
  • Best-Before Date: Suggests the period the product will remain at its best quality. It’s usually safe to consume after this date but may not taste as good. 

Allergen Information

In Singapore, common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, and gluten must be declared. This information is crucial for individuals with food allergies or intolerances.

How to Identify Allergens:

  • Bold Text: Allergens are often highlighted in bold within the ingredient list.
  • Allergen Statements: Look for statements like “Contains peanuts” or “May contain traces of nuts.”

Country of Origin

Knowing where your food comes from can help you make choices based on quality, ethical practices, and sustainability. Singapore imports a significant portion of its food, so country of origin can also indicate freshness and food miles.

Claims and Certifications

Food labels often contain various claims and certifications that can guide healthier and more ethical choices:

Common Claims:

  • Organic: Indicates the product is produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.
  • Whole Grain: Made with the entire grain kernel, offering more nutrients.
  • Low Fat/Reduced Fat: Contains less fat compared to the regular product.
  • No Added Sugar: No extra sugar has been added, but natural sugars may still be present.


  • Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS): A local certification by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) indicating healthier options within a category.
  • Halal Certification: Ensures the product is permissible under Islamic law, certified by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).
  • Fair Trade: Indicates ethical production practices, ensuring fair wages and conditions for workers.

Practical Tips for Decoding Labels

  • Compare Products: Look at similar products and compare their NIPs and ingredient lists to choose the healthier option.
  • Check Serving Sizes: Be mindful of serving sizes on the NIP. What seems like a low calorie or sugar amount per serving may be high if the serving size is small.
  • Be Skeptical of Marketing Claims: Words like “natural” and “healthy” are not regulated and can be misleading. Always check the ingredient list and NIP.
  • Stay Updated: Food labeling regulations and trends evolve. Keep informed about new guidelines and health recommendations.

Where to Find Healthy Food Options?

At Organic7days, we offer a wide selection of healthy food options made with wholesome ingredients and minimal sugar. From Recipe with Love’s gluten-free noodles to Little Freddie’s baby fruit pouches, there’s no shortage of snacks and meal solutions to choose from.


Decoding food product and ingredient labels is an invaluable skill that empowers you to make healthier and more informed choices. In a multicultural food hub like Singapore, where local and international foods abound, understanding labels can help you navigate the vast selection and ensure that you and your family are consuming nutritious and safe foods. By paying attention to ingredient lists, nutrition information panels, expiry dates, allergens, country of origin, and various claims and certifications, you can make better shopping decisions that contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

If you’re interested in kickstarting your healthy eating journey, why not take a look at our organic food options? Browse our website for more information.

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