Wising up to the latest labels

safefood launches schools food labelling education programme

21 April, 2005. safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board launched a new food labelling resource earlier today, Thursday, 21st April. Targeting 13-15 year olds, the programme aims to teach young people how to read and understand labels, thereby empowering them to make more informed choices throughout their lives that may improve their general health.

In a recent survey, safefood found that 71% of people on the Island of Ireland only read labels occasionally, and 42% were not satisfied with the information contained on the food labels. The resource, which forms an important component of the Social, Personal, Health Education (SPHE) curriculum at junior cycle level, is designed to educate young people about how to read labels in a way that will have a positive influence on the choices they make with regard to their diet, from childhood right through to adulthood.

“Empowering young people to make informed decisions with regard to the food and drinks they consume is essential to help protect their health for the future,” commented Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood. “With obesity and diabetes on the rise, it is important that we implement measures now to help reverse this trend. We hope that teachers will use this resource in the classroom, thereby encouraging young people to adopt a healthier and more balanced diet.”

The food labelling resource is a direct result of the recommendations of an expert working group, established by the Minister for Agriculture and Food in July 2002. Developed by a team of nutrition and education experts, its components range from basic nutritional information to understanding the health claims found on labels.

“I welcome this initiative by safefood which will inform young teenagers of the content of food and drinks they consume and purchase both now and in the future and will help them make informed sensible choices,” commented Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Agriculture and Food.

Nutritional disorders such as obesity are widespread in on the island of Ireland with figures from the North South Food Consumption Survey indicating that 18% of people are obese and a further 39% overweight. Complications, which can arise as a result of an unhealthy diet include heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The benefits of preventing this trend through education at a young age should not be underestimated.

Schools can request a pack by contacting safefood at 1850 404 567.


For further information please contact

Andrew Hyland / Dr. Aileen McGloin
Tel: 01 6690030       
087 9088 322 (Andrew)


Fiona Gilligan
Tel: 087 989 1682

Editor's Notes

Components of resource

Lesson 1 – What is a food label?
The importance of food labelling. How labels have evolved. What information should be on a label. Ingredients listings, best before dates, country of origin – deciphering where this information is on a label.

Lesson 2 – Knowing your nutrients
The nutrition label. What is a nutrient? Energy, Protein, Carbohydrate and Fats. Are all fats bad? Recommended Daily Allowances. Calculating salt content. Voluntary vs. involuntary nutritional labels. Food Labelling Regulations.

Lesson 3 – Food Nutrition
Food Nutrition and Health, The Food Pyramid and how it is related to Dietary Guidelines, What is a portion, Using labels to make informed food choices.
Food Additives – What are they? The safety of additives. The role of e-numbers.

This labelling resource was developed by a working group consisting of a team of nutrition and education experts. The working group came together on six occasions to discuss and review the programme content.

Members of the working group include

  • John Lahiff, National Coordinator SPHE Support Service
  • Mary Curley, Assistant Principal Officer, Food Safety Liaison Unit, Department of Agriculture and Food.
  • Majella O Shea, Director of Curriculum and Assessment, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
  • Margot Brennan, PRO, Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute
  • Edel Conway, Information Manager, Food Safety Authority of Ireland
  • Geraldine Quinn, Senior Scientific Officer, safefood