From last Sunday (9) the new rules for food labels in Brazil are in force. The changes range from a seal, shaped like a magnifying glass, on the front of the package, to the nutrition table, placed on the back of the products.
The magnifying glass determines if the product has added sugar, sodium, or excess saturated fat. The goal is to increase clarity and make food labels easier to read so that people can make healthier choices.
However, learning to read the label requires understanding what is good and what is bad for your health.
The first question is: if the product has a magnifying glass, it is not suitable for consumption.
“Due to the identification, the consumer already has to check the most dangerous foods for health. And, therefore, look for those that do not have a magnifying glass,” explains Ana Paula Bortoletto, researcher at Nupens / USP (Nucleo de Studi Pesquisas in Nutrition and Health at the University of Sao Paulo).
With the creation of the seal, the expectation is that the industry will reformulate food in order to escape the dreaded magnifying glass: international standards have been used to set the criteria.
But the reformulation may not be so good for the consumer; therefore, it is important to look at the nutrition table and check the amount of the three nutrients that give rise to the seal. If they are too close to the limit, it is also best to avoid.
“If you don’t have a magnifying glass, it is important to look at the list of ingredients, especially to see if that product is not over-processed or if it is at the limit of sodium, added sugars and saturated fats”, nutritionist guide Laís Amaral, member of the Food Program of the IDEC (Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection).
The limits imposed by Anvisa are:
• added sugars: from 15 g per 100 g (for solid food) or 7.5 g per 100 ml (for liquid food);
• Saturated fats: from 6 g per 100 g (for solid food) or 3 g per 100 ml (for liquid food);
• Sodium: from 600 mg per 100 g (for solid food) or 300 mg per 100 ml (for liquid food).
It is important to know the ingredients of the purchased product
In addition to the magnifying glass and the nutrition table, the industry is obliged to put all the ingredients used in the manufacture of the product.
Reading what the food we consume is made of is essential to know if the product is healthy.
“The information on the ingredients is in descending order: the first that appears is in greater quantity, and so on. Through the list we can get an idea of the types of ingredients,” explains Laís Amaral.
From this list, you can make better choices.
“We were able to identify food additives, which are flavorings, colors, sweeteners or sweeteners. Also, we need to be aware of the ingredients we don’t have in our home kitchen, such as hydrogenated fat, modified starch,” adds Laís. .
The ingredients that we fail to recognize are those that characterize an ultra-processed food.
“There are many scientific studies that show the relationship between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and chronic diseases. We have the recommendation, in Brazil and the rest of the world, to avoid these types of foods,” warns the expert.
This list includes syrups, emulsifiers, and protein extracts. “These substances change the original characteristics of products. We usually call them cosmetic food additives. They also work like a make-up in food,” warns Ana Paula.
Will all the products sold already have the new label?
Reading the ingredients is also important, because it will take some time before the products available contain the new Anvisa determinations. According to the implementation phases, all products will be updated only in October 2025.
This is because, in this first step, only items produced after 9 October 2022 must comply with current legislation. What has been produced before and has expired can be sold normally.
“The problem is that ultra-processed products have a long shelf life. So, we will have products with and without magnifying glass in stores, but they may get one. Maybe they are not in the implementation period. It is not because we have a ‘front label that does not have it we have to read the list of ingredients “, underlines the professional Idec.
Why is the amount of added sugar important?
Among the changes to the nutrition table, information on the amount of total sugars and added sugars is considered essential.
“We have scientific evidence showing the relationship between disease and sugars, particularly what is added to the product by the industry. More often than not, lower quality sugar is added, which is harmful,” Laís points out.
All of these innovations help educate the population, but Ana Paula Bortoletto, a researcher at Nupens / USP, warns that “education is key. But, if we only talk about education, we blame people too much for not making healthier choices. an almost unsustainable choice these days, given the exorbitant prices “.
The researcher reiterates that the best choices also depend on public policies. “Less healthy products may have higher taxes, for example, so we can subsidize better food.”
He adds that the environment should discourage the consumption of ultra-processed foods. “These foods could not be sold in schools or advertised for children. With all of this, we would increase protection for the less fortunate and help with healthier choices that would be cheaper and more available,” concludes Ana.
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