2 February 2018

Food labeling

The quality of a product is not determined by its labeling or its price.

Labeling is information of a guiding nature and should be considered as such when we value a food.

The regulation of labeling in Spain is imposed by the European Union, so all the countries of the EU follow the same regulation (the United States and Canada have their own legislation). 

Sometimes, this information can cause confusion, especially when comparing different products. For this reason, we have decided to give you a series of keys that will help you better understand this world:


  1. All foods should indicate whether they are complete meals (recommended as the basis of daily intake) or complementary food (treats or supplements that, by themselves, would not ensure a balanced nutrition).

It is essential to provide our animals a complete meal that is also balanced and nutritious, which is not so simple, since a quality diet does not consist only of mixing ingredients and reaching certain minimum percentages of the analytical components.


  1. Terms such as “natural”, “holistic”, “premium” and “super-premium” are not legislated

In the absence of a regulation that defines them, each company can use these terms as they deem, following their own criteria and philosophy.

Independent organizations such as FEDIAF (European) or AAFCO (American) offer definitions that, despite not being mandatory, can serve as a guide (for example, for FEDIAF the definition of “natural” is more limiting and strict than for AAFCO).

The term “organic / bio / ecological” does have its own legislation in the European Union and to be able to elaborate a bio food, there are a number of written regulations with which the manufacturer must comply.


  1. It is advisable to purchase foods that specify for whom the product is intended

It is necessary to remember that the needs of a puppy are not the same as the needs of an adult; or that an adult that performs an intense daily activity does not have the same need as a senior dog; or that the needs of a breastfeeding female are not the same as the need of a female in maintenance.


  1. The dosage table is for guidance only

It is very important to monitor their body condition quite often in order to readjust the portions if needed, or to consider a dietary change.


  1. The composition shows the ingredients in the recipe in descending order of the amount included

It is not mandatory to show the percentage of all ingredients, only those that have been highlighted, either in the commercial name of the food or visually (photo, drawing, sentence…)

The percentage that can appear next to an ingredient can sometimes generate more confusion, since the ingredient can be incorporated fresh, so it contains water naturally (for example, in meat the humidity is 65-70% per se) or in its dehydrated form, so it would have much more concentrated nutrients. Therefore, that percentage in the composition is not a truly useful information for the consumer to assess the protein, fat or carbohydrate levels of the food.


  1. The part with the analytical components in the labeling shows approximate values of protein, fat, fiber, ash and moisture (the latter is not always mandatory).

To obtain these values, laboratories are used. The laboratory techniques always give useful values for the consumer, but they are only approximate.

The guide value of the carbohydrates in the recipe is obtained by subtracting the values of protein, fat, fiber and ash from the dry matter (remember that carbohydrates are not tantamount to cereals).


  1. Ashes, or inorganic matter of the analytical components, is the name given to a substance resulting from a laboratory technique.

“Ashes” do not refer to an ingredient (ash is not included as an ingredient in a recipe).

It is the residue or product resulting from a laboratorial technique. And it is obtained by incinerating the dry matter to extract the amount of inorganic matter in the sample. This value reflects, among other things, the amount of minerals in the product.

Each ingredient has a percentage of ash (after incineration) that contributes to the final percentage in the food. For example, ancient grains (such as amaranth) and pseudo-cereals (such as quinoa) have a higher content of minerals and fiber (and, therefore, a greater percentage of ash) than other cereals.


Other ingredients, such as legumes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dried fruits, soy, brown rice, beet, spinach or berries also contribute to an increase of the ash value.



  1. Two products with different percentages of moisture can never be compared directly with the label

If you want to compare the analytical components of two foods that have different moisture, you must first convert them both into dry matter (DM), and always look first at their moisture, before deciding on one of them.

To know how to compare two foods of different moisture and be able to decide safely, check out how to calculate it.


  1. In the Additives section it is compulsory to list the vitamins and minerals with their code and their nomenclature, according to the legislation

Pet foods are manufactured on the basis that they can be exposed to air or sunlight for a certain time. As a result, in order to ensure the food continues to provide the essential nutrients in adequate amounts, certain vitamins and minerals are added (the ones that may suffer a deterioration) and therefore the food maintains its properties and is complete throughout its useful life.

The number E does not necessarily indicate a harmful substance, it is simply a way to classify. However, at present, the European Union is renaming vitamins and minerals, so that they will no longer carry an E number (for example, vitamin A will become 3a672a).

Other additives (such as dyes, preservatives and antioxidants) can appear in a generic way, simply with the name of their functional group.



  1. It is mandatory to have a contact number of the person responsible for labeling in case any questions arise

Both manufacturer and distributor information must appear on the food packaging. 


Legislation is right to require showing the percentages of nutrients, such as crude protein, to guide buyers, but that information is not as revealing as knowing the biological valuedigestibility or bioavailability of ingredients (data that we understand would complicate the label reading, but that are more useful to assess the quality of a food).

For all that, we encourage people not to be guided exclusively by what they read, but to ask and try. Because a food that is being assimilated correctly generates immediate beneficial effects and, more importantly, achieves its long-term function. And a good diet is the best medicine.