How access to nutrition information is changing the way we make decisions about our health
By Walter Oh | We now live in a world where with a few taps on our phones, we can find out how we should dress for the day, how much a spontaneous trip to Europe will cost, and how much trans fat is in the bag of chips we just opened.
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that trans fats are created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil to make it firmer. Like saturated fat, trans fat raises your cholesterol and can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, but you probably already knew that.
The way we make purchasing decisions is changing. Product transparency is no longer a choice but a corporate responsibility, as consumers now expect brands to provide complete and accurate product information, especially when it comes to nutrition. Based on The Label Insight Food Revolution Study, 71% of people consider whether they have access to the full ingredient list when making a food purchase.
Consumers can take back more control of their health by equipping themselves with knowledge about what exactly is stocked on the shelves. After all, food impacts our bodies in the most direct way possible. We now know all too well that consuming too much saturated fat and trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium will increase the risk of certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, some cancers, and high blood pressure. But it took decades for us to get to this point.
That being said, nutrition labels can be difficult to decipher, so it’s not enough for consumers to have the information, as they must know how to read it, too. A common mistake is thinking that ‘no sugar added’ equates to healthy. Naturally occurring sugars are listed as carbohydrates, so it’s important to look at other nutrients to avoid being misled by packaging. In this case, a juice labeled as ‘sugar-free’ can contain the same amount of sugar as a can of Coke. Although it’s better to choose juice because Coke is not only high in sugars but also artificial chemicals, the moral of the story is that nutrition claims are not always as they seem.
Many promising technologies can aid consumers in filling this gap. One example is GreenLink, a social enterprise that uses blockchain technology to allow customers to trace the origin of products and verify product information by scanning a label or QR code. Shoppers are empowered to become conscious consumers when they can discover the stories, journeys, and impact behind the products.
Product transparency is still a work in progress, as industry standards need time to more accurately reflect consumer expectations towards their food. However, technology has made strides in providing consumers with the tools and knowledge they need to make decisions about their health, paving the way for a healthier future.
About the Author
Walter is the Co-founder of Boxgreen. Founded in 2014, Boxgreen is on a mission to promote better snacking by delivering natural and nutritious snacks straight to the customer. All snacks are free from artificial flavoring and coloring, and tagged with easy-to-read health badges. A portion of all proceeds of each snack goes toward providing meals for the less privileged.